On Friday 16th May 2014, the Secretary General of The World Federation, Shan E Abbas Hassam presented his key note speech at the 14th triennial conference in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. A copy of his speech has been provided below:
Audhubillahi min ashaytan nir rajeem
Bismillahir Rahman ir Rahim
Rabbi Shahri Sadri Wa Yasirli Amri Wahlul Uktatum
Ulame e Kiram, My Dear Elders, Community Leaders, Brothers and Sisters
As the term 2011-2014 draws to a close, it is time that we reflect on some of the achievements of the Secretariat of the World Federation and at the same time with assess in depth some of the many challenges that we face today.
As your Secretary General, I can humbly report that the Action Plan created by last conference and signed off at the 2nd Executive Council Meeting of this firm, that 90% of the 93 points agreed have been implemented. Much success has been gained in a number of areas.
For example, through the support of the community, The Madresah Centre of Excellence has in these 3 years turned from a mere concept paper into a shining reality.
The Curriculum Development Team has managed to collate data from all the various community syllabi and has a produced a draft framework which is now being consulted upon.
Over  assessors have been trained across the world and  pilot assessment have taken place. The Learning Resources section has begun building a sizeable data bank and our Teacher Development Programme has been agreed upon and commenced.
All the while, we have made sure that rather than re-inventing the wheel, that we have instead dissected the entire Madaris operation to make sure that we improve Tarbiya and not just Taalim.
As such, we have innovated and will need to innovate further.
Some examples include creation of integrated curriculum, and looking in depth at areas such as neuro- psychology of learning. The whole concept of Assessment and Evaluation has been created from scratch and is a real example of tangible progress.
To attain the maximum impact we will need to make sure that the programme gains wholesale buy in so that they can be implemented in any as many of the 144 Madaris as possible.
A number of significant achievements have taken place in other departments – from Education (which is being re-shaped to being a more strategic area), Relief (which the focus has been more on economic development work rather than merely welfare), to ZCSS (where key administrative improvements have been made and where for the first time we are working closely with organisations that we would have previously viewed as competitors.
A full analysis of these departments will take place under Agenda Item Number 18 later today inshAllah and presented to you by the respective Assistant Secretary Generals.
Fit For Purpose
My dear brothers and sisters, as you all know, Conference is THE most August organ of The World Federation. We need to use this forum to discuss our key challenges and to develop key strategic policies.
In order to kick start this, I would like to share some of the perils, trials and challenges that I foresee.
We are fortunate to be part of a community that structures that are so well developed and so well founded. Where institutions have been created in the past by our forwarding thinking forefathers; but I also see a community that is slow to evolve and potentially rooted in dated thinking.
Today there are many that question the very relevant of our community institutions. They feel disconnected from the Regional Federations and indeed from The World Federation. They find our structures bureaucratic and slow to respond, almost archaic in their nature.
They find that few if any institutions can cater for their needs, even their Jamaats.
In fact when we analyse closely we might argue that our institutions are indeed territorial in nature. To add to it, there is a clear ‘them’ and ‘us’; with protocol often over shadowing real partnership. We see our institutions implementing a number of projects but often without first identifying the exact strategy or long term thinking.
All in all the modus operandi in which our organizations work needs to be thoroughly reviewed. Yes our technocratic is useful but we need to make sure things get done. For this we need to review our working strategy .
Although we will discuss this later under the relevant agenda item, I do feel that the time has come that we need to make sure that our organisations deliver collectively (not just individually), that we prioritize our community needs and that they become relevant for today’s generation. We can do this by creating clear strategies and by making sure that our organisations have collective responsibility.
We need to make sure that the artificial barriers put in place over time are broken down and that The World Federation and the Regional Federations can form true partnerships, without insecurity and without anxiety.
Yes, much better relationships have been fathomed over the last 3 years, but there is still a lot of work to do. We must make sure that we put in place structures that reduce our beauracracy, that increase our efficiency and that allow The World Federation and The Regional Federations to be effective and for Jamaats to gain benefit from the Regional Federations.
If we choose to keep the status quo, my feeling is that all our organisations’ long term credibility will be put on the line.
Another important issue is the rising inequality in our community. The gap between the
‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’ is increasing at a rapid pace.
Our organisatons’ have done much to invest in education (by ways of grants and loans) but much more needs to be done to economically uplift our community. In our well organized, well drilled, business minded community there is no reason why poverty (especially acute poverty) should exist. Just look at Dar Es Salaam as a microcosm of the African Khoja Community.
Here, we have individuals ranging from oligarchs, to young upcoming professionals and those who earn a little as 100-200 dollars per month; and there are many who earn less.
Our policy of welfare for the seniors, the disabled and the orphans must continue but we must give a greater impetus and much greater drive to ridding poverty from within our community.
These should not be mere words but must be on the highest level of priorities for all our organisations. We have the resources but my dear brothers and sisters do we have desire!
Much greater impetus for development programmes, vocational training and microfinance must take place. We recognize that our community member are shy to take up such offers but let us find a way of reaching out and developing our family.
From The World Federation’s perspective more work needs to be done to highlight schemes that are taking place locally, to find investment from abroad and to share best practices.
Furthermore, it would be a fallacy to believe that economic development work should be confined to the developing world only.
Much needs to be done in the Western World too, to provide access to job opportunities, mentoring and skills development. Our community there will suffer (a point which needs deliberation and reflection) on too many youngsters employed and their entrepreneurial instincts tamed by the temptation of security. Again, our leadership needs to be aware of such dilemmas and able to take guide the community youth in a way similar to those of other communities.
We find, furthermore, that there is no clear direction on immigration. Yes work has begun between Regional Federations (such as between the Pakistan Federation and Africa Federation), but The World Federation now needs to create a dedicated team that can provide our community with this vital, life changing information.
Another critical area is the strengthening of family ties within our community.
Strong families make a strong society.
We must, as Dr Moledina has already committed to this, make sure that this becomes a key cornerstone to Conference’s strategy for the upcoming 3 years. More work needs to be done on the pre-marriage development, the marriage contract or framework needs to become more common and more widely accessible.
We must make sure, that in those unavoidable circumstances of separate or divorce, that our community structures’ can provide access to mediation, counseling and advice.
Yes, this may exist in Jamaats but our services can continue to be improved and best practices more readily shared.
Ulama and Zakireen
On a different note, our community is yearning for Ulama and Zakireen that can fully graps our community diaspora and challenges; as well as being able to connect with our members.
This task is daunting and cumbersome and an area where our community institutions cannot shy away from.
Although the Islamic Institute of Postgraduate Studies is no more, the reasons why it had come into fruition continue to exist.
The demand for high caliber Ulama is outstripping the supply.
Yes we can assist our buddy scholars in Qom and Najaf but is that simply the answer?
No, we must make sure that we develop our students and add value to them such that they are both aspiring to help and are also better equipped to do so.
Practical support and guidance is needed as well as greater assistance in providing real life work experience to students.
Resident Aalims, despite their reluctance, must go through programmes which them better connect with our community and to upgrade their knowledge. This can only happen if there is total co-ordination and total steadfastness within our organisations.
There are many more challenges, trials and tests that our community faces and that we can discuss at length during this important meeting – from the erosion of the culture of volunteering, to the lack of data on our community’s make up, to the rising costs of education and to the further work that needs to be done on the centralization of Huqooq funds.
However, I want to end on challenge that is being faced by the entire Shia Madhab. Today, we see a huge deployment of resources by the enemies of Ahlul Bayt (AS) to falsify and to attack our Shia Brothers and Sisters.
We see atrocities being committed from Pakistan to Syria.
We see a long term strategy being played out in all parts of Africa and even in India too. Europe cannot escape from such widespread planning and such numerous resources. It is high time that our Organisations created long term, codified partnerships with other Shia Organisations and Muslim Organisations to highlight such extremities.
Much work has taken place by our Vice President and others to work with Shia Bodies to form a collective voice. Work now needs to take place to create agreements and umbrella bodies that can codify our potential alliances. Much work needs to be done with our Muslim Brothers and Sisters to make sure moderates shine through.
Our AhlulBayt (AS) showed us the importance of our Ahlaaq and this needs to be exemplified in our centres and in our homes.
But to do this, appropriately and effectively much resource needs to be deployed and a full rounded strategy passed by this August Body.
Without this, we shall be merely reacting rather than pro-actively portraying the true image of our Madhab.
I know that this key note address may have sounded negative and even harsh.
But it is better to shake us out of our comfort zones and to constructively analyse our community challenges; than to merely praise the work of the past. As your secretary general I have a duty to you, to our community and to our 12th imam (AJFS) to give an honest and sincere assessment of where we are.
Yes, our community structures and heritage should make us full of pride but at the same time there is much work to do. Both within our community (which is our own family) and beyond.
I hope and pray that these challenges and strategies are discussed in depth over the next 3 days and I will re-assure this August House that these will all be captured in detail form and that a 3 year plan will be put in place for the Executive Council to adopt and to monitor.
Let us end by praying to Allah (swt) with the Wasila of Imam Ali (AS), whose Wiladat we celeberated earlier this week, to grant us success in our endeavours, to grant us foresight and to allow us to work constructively over the next 3 years to find ways and means of developing our wonderfully unique community, Ameen.
Finally a request for Sura Fateha for our past Community Leaders including Marhum Mulla Asghar MM JAffer and all our Marhumeen.