what my community means to me

What my community means to me – Essay Entry

What my community means to me

Aliasgher Mohammedakhtar Walji submitted this as part of the first essay competition, and resides in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.

“The believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercy.”

Suratul Hujurat, Ayah 10

I advise you (both) and all my children and members of my family and everyone whom my writing reaches, to fear Allah, to keep your affairs in order, and to maintain good relations among yourselves for I have heard your grand-father (the Holy Prophet – p.b.u.h.a.h.p.) saying, “Improvement of mutual differences is better than general prayers and fastings.”

Nahjul Balagha, Letter 47


y name is Aliasgher Walji, I was born and brought up in Dar es Salaam for eighteen years, where I was  blessed to part of the Khoja Shia Ithna-ashari Jamaat of Dar es Salaam.

My community means a lot to me in various aspects which I wish to discuss in this write up. My community was a blessing from Allah(swt) which I have come to realise, now that I have travelled outside Dar es Salaam, for my further studies.

There are several reasons my community was a blessing to me, thirty five of which are;

  1. I was never alone, I never experienced any loneliness, as my community was always by my side. My community gave me a sense of belonging and connection to others.
  • After my family, my community served as my secondary support system, in times of need.
  • My community gave me a platform for socialisation, the opportunity to meet and learn from those people who are not easily accessible individually such as representatives of our Marjas.
  • By means of empowerment of the youth, and allowing the youth to partake in important projects involving both the community and outside of the community, my community gave me the opportunity to make a difference.
  • My community gave me access to local resources and services, such as national identity cards and health check ups.
  • I was and am proud of having been part of such a prestigious and loving community. My community gave me a sense of pride.
  • My community gave me the chance to learn about and appreciate the diversity of the community. It is my hope they will initiate an action plan against discrimination.
  • I was given a sense of responsibility to contribute to the well-being of my community from a young age.
  • My community gave me a feeling of safety and security knowing that I was surrounded by others who cared about me. The genuine care the community had for community members provided comfort and ease for all the members.
  1. I was given a sense of identity and connection to my local history and culture. The rich khoja cultural history was fascinating to learn about.
  1. My community gave me opportunities for personal and professional growth through community involvement. Every year my community provides youth summer internship opportunities where I worked in professional companies such as MeTL Tabata Branch and Shree Hindu Mandal Hospital
  1. I gained access to local events and activities. Such as blood drives, health check ups and football games.
  1. My community gave me a chance to build relationships with neighbours and local businesses, which encouraged support and economic betterment.
  1. My community gave me a source of support and guidance from community leaders maalims (abbreviated as maa), bais and our great scholars.

In specific, the teachers of Madressa such as

  1. Maa:Munawar who was our Madressa principal,
  2. Maa:Shabbir Yusufali who was our Madressa vice principal,
  3. Maa:Shabbir Moledina who taught me Quran and akhlaq,
  4. Maa:Sibtain Moledina who taught me tarikh,
  5. Maa:Hussein Moledina who taught Quran,
  6. Maa:Alihussein Molloo who taught me theology,
  7. Maa:Ali Manekia who taught me theology,
  8. Maa:Murtaza Bhalloo who taught me discipline,
  9. Maa:Maisam Versi who taught me theology and tarikh,
  10. Maa:Imran Versi who taught me more than I can describe,
  11. Maa:Mohammedabbas Jessa who taught me discipline,
  12. Maa:Shaneabbas Jessa who taught me comparative religions,
  13. Maa:Hassan Dewji who taught me how to gain success and about mental health,
  14. Maa:Muntazir Rattansi who taught me jurisprudence,
  15. Maa:Amir Kanji who taught me tarikh,
  16. Maa:Jaffer Chandoo who taught me jurisprudence,
  17. Maa:Tehsin Hirji who taught me jurisprudence,
  18. Maa:Aliasgher Rajani who taught me theology, 
  19. Maa:Murtaza Sikander who taught me Quran and akhlaq,
  20. Maa:Aliasgher Mukhtar who taught me Quran and akhlaq,
  21. Maa:Yasin who taught me Quran,
  22. Maa:Hassan Hussein, who taught Quran,
  23. Maa:Mudathir Hassan Hussein, who taught Quran.
  24. Maa:Mohammed Walji who taught me tarikh, 5 years later I(Aliasgher Walji) taught alongside him. And many, many, many, more

The teachers of Quran khani such as

  1. Maa:Mazher Gulamhussein,
  2. Maa:Sajjad Rahim,
  3. Maa:Imran Versi,
  4. Maa:Mohammedbaqir Versi,
  5. Maa:Shabbir Chandoo,
  6. Maa:Gulamabbas Dattoo,
  7. Maa:Sameer Moledina,
  8. Maa:Aliabbas Shamji,
  9. Maa:Mohammedjawad Dhalla,
  10. Maa:Aliasgher Walji,
  11. Maa:Mohammed Lalji,
  12. Maa:Mujahid Chandoo,
  13. Maa:Muhammad Sameer,
  14. Maa:Mohammed Hirji,
  15. Maa:Atlaf Yusuf,
  16. Maallim Hassan Versi,
  17. Maa:Ali Dharsee

And many, many, many, more

Along with the great bais and maalims teaching the lower Madressa, who taught me when I was younger, specifically our principal Bai Raziya Janmohammed, Bai Fatim Somji, Bai Mumtaz Jaffer, Bai Dilshad Jaffer and many, many, many, more.

They all worked very hard for us and loved us all, I cannot repay them for all they taught me.

Each one of these bais and maalims teaching Madressa and Quran khani to me are worth more than a well of infinite gold coins. Two maalims who I will name separately are Sheikh Imran Saleh, and Maa:Shabbir Dattoo.

These maalims are the reason I can sleep well at night. The amount of knowledge I gained from these two great personalities cannot be described, it suffices me to say I am forever indebted to them for the vast, vast, vast amount of knowledge and wisdom they imparted to me, which has shaped my understanding of jurisprudence(fiqh) and theology(aqaid) forever.

Sheikh Saleh and Maa:Dattoo to me are worth more than a well of infinite diamonds and precious gems.

Finally we have our great scholars such as

  1. Sheikh Imran Saleh,
  2. Sheikh Saleh famously known as Madawa,
  3. Sheikh Mohammed Kamran,
  4. Sheikh Azeem Shirazi,
  5. Sheikh Hussein Versi,
  6. Sheikh Ali Rajani,
  7. Sheikh Mansoor Daya(Rahimallah),
  8. Sheikh Zeeshan,
  9. And finally our esteemed great resident Alim Sayyid Adeel Raza(who is our candle in darkness),

These Holy scholars to me are nothing short of guides representing Imam Zaman(a.t.f.s) and to me their value cannot be described.

  1. My community gave me a sense of unity and solidarity with others in the community. Clearly seen in activities and functions such as solidarity walks and khushali/wafat programs. What I miss the most is the Juma Khutbas.
  1. I met different people, having different interests, I met some passionate about community service, some passionate about a certain career path, some passionate about a certain cause or a certain sport or a certain concept this was an opportunity given to me by my community.
  1. My community gave me a way to give back and make a positive impact on my community. To help my community members by organising events such as Barazas and question answer sessions.
  1. My community gave me opportunities for volunteerism and community service. Volunteering in sales, projects, dramas and exhibitions touched my heart.
  1. My community gave me access to recreational facilities and spaces.               Subsidised sports facilities and gym facilities, including a swimming pool.
  • My community gave me a chance to participate in community decision-making processes. By asking for feedback from members, we were in a way able to participate in decision making.
  • My community gave me a sense of responsibility to advocate for the needs of my community members during forums.
  • My community gave me a way to build a sense of trust and cooperation among community members. Building relations which are currently ongoing and beneficial was enabled by the community.
  • My community gave me a chance to celebrate and appreciate the unique qualities of community members. “The talent of one is the pride of all” was the principle our community was based on
  • My community gave me opportunities to learn new skills and develop talents through community programs. Such as emergency life saving and first aid training.
  • My community gave me a chance to build a sense of belonging and connection to the place you call home. When I remember my home city of dar es salaam, I am also reminded of my loving community.
  • My community gave me a source of support and encouragement during times of challenge or difficulty. During deaths and tragedy the emotional support is unmatched.
  • My community gave me a chance to connect with others and build relationships with people from different backgrounds and walks of life. Interfaith dialogue was  encouraged by my community.
  • My community gave me a way to learn about and appreciate the diverse cultures and traditions within it. We have people from all different backgrounds, places and cultures in our community.
  • My community gave me a source of inspiration and motivation to make a positive difference in the world. The encouragement to take the first step is widely given in our community, and the encouragement to begin start ups.
  • My community gave me poportunities for leadership and personal growth through community involvement. I was a development society chairman at our Madressa and an Islamic council chairman in our school, this was enabled by my community.
  • My community gave me a chance to make a positive impact on the lives of others.By means of organising various events, working entire nights and days at times.
  •  My community gave me my loving friends who I treasure, and they always do amr bil maruf and nahi nail munkar (encouragement of good and discouraging evil).
  •  My community protected me from the fitna(trials) of the end times when deviant people attacked ismat(infallibility), wilayat e takwini(guardianship of affairs), tawasul(seeking means to) and Shafa’ah(intercession) which are fundamentals of shiaism.
  •  The community provides us with elderly people, who have experienced life and have gems of wisdom for the youth who choose to take them.
  •  The community reminds us of the greatest man we have forgotten Bar ma Imam which is a gujrati way of saying our twelfth Imam(a.t.f.s) may his reappearance be hastened.

All communities are great, including the community I currently reside in, but to me, Dar es Salaam Jamaat holds a special place within my heart.

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