In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Most Merciful
After a walk under a heavy security down the Rasul Akram Road - a hub for Hawza students - I was able to reach to the humble home of the grand marja' Ayatullah Sistani.
He welcomed us warmly and after conveying salaams from the Office Bearers of The World Federation and the regional bodies, I updated him on the different activities being carried out in the community in terms of relief and Islamic education.
Ayatullah Sistani was keen to know of the details and spoke with appreciation of the Khoja community. He was pleased to learn that the Islamic Education department is carrying out different academic activities with scholars and experts of the field contributing to these.
He was also well-versed with the challenges the community is facing and advised us to take a moderate path in solving them. His concern was regarding the youth and their faith. He went on to suggest that while we may not be able to eliminate the secular approach to life we have, we can at least try and minimize its negative impact on us.
Despite his age, he was still able to discuss academic issues with all enthusiasm. Knowing that I was a Hawza student, he wanted an update from its students and teachers and when I got the chance to present my papers, he probed the topic and asked me about related questions and references, before encouraging me to publish it.
Regarding Western academia and its research, Ayatullah Sistani has this to say: “Orientalists have recently started producing some research on Imamiya Studies, but the study is still young and not lot has been covered.”
I got a chance to ask about other Gujarati communities such as Aga Khanis and Bohras. He quoted a reference which he read some 20 years ago and then amazingly, went on to speaking of the dispute of Sayyid Razi and Sayyed Murtaza on Ismailis. Although many sources had told me that Ayatullah reads a lot and has a very good memory, seeing it in action was a unique experience in itself.
The passion for discussing academic issues is so great in this grand marja' that even after he stood up to leave 25 minutes later, he continued discussing and advising me on the matter. This exchange was one I can never forget!