By Afsheen Ali
Last week marked an astonishing week in history of Ismaili Muslims. As the Coronavirus started spreading rapidly, calls started coming that our Jamat khana has been shutdown until further notice. I wasn’t prepared to hear that, but it didn’t hit me as much at that time. Nothing changes for me I said to myself at that time in terms of routine or practice. That’s the beautiful part about our faith – that it is esoteric, Our faith can be practiced any time, any place, or in any circumstances; the regular and irregular practice. However, soon after as the circumstances rapidly started to change with all the news of major shutdowns happening all across USA, I started to feel the impact at home and elsewhere.
My husband, who is a crisis management volunteer for our local Jamat khana (JK), does not regularly attend evening JK except for days when he has volunteer assignment. The other day he said “Something is off, there is no JK. Not seeing you and kids getting ready for JK feels odd.” That same day, our 8 year old daughter who is also a youth volunteer in JK asked “Are we going to JK tonight, it’s my duty day!” As painful as it was for me to say this, I had to remind her that our Jamat khana has been temporarily suspended.
This interaction with her made me ponder. If we are feeling this way, how are the other members of our Jamat coping with this? What about regular volunteers? What about REC, RCC and ECDC students? What about Jamati leaders? Those jamati members who go to JK on daily basis? Their physical space to pray, volunteer and socialize, to give and receive Dua Aashish, is all of a sudden, put on hold. Fact is; the temporary suspension of JK has been felt by everyone.
Let us reflect on this – Jamatkhana is a place to worship. It’s where we gather to perform our daily prayers and religious obligations. What is our beloved Hazar Imam’s guidance on the practice of our faith? This is the time more than ever, when we need to seek His guidance and follow.
Our beloved Mawla has continuously emphasized the importance of practicing our faith regularly; our faith which is esoteric. Faith that can and must be practiced any time, all the time. Faith that must accompany us in our daily lives, in our heart, in our actions, in the awareness of our soul and in our individual search for The Noor. On various occasions, He has also blessed us with specific tasbihs to practice; irrespective of time, space and/or circumstances. These tasbihs are:
Ya Allah – Who is the creator and has the destructive power for evil forces and those who hurt the creation.
Ya Muhammad – The Directional Noor (Hidaya)
Ya Ali – He who we call in times of difficulties (per Dua)
When He has provided us with direction and tools to live our lives, we need not worry, and simply follow His guidance. Inshallah, more sooner than later, we will come out of this. This calamity will pass, but like all problems in life, this one is here to teach us a huge lesson of remembrance, our reality, our values, appreciation and gratitude for our Imam without whose guidance, love and blessings, we are nothing. Inshallah, Jamat Khana will reopen too. But, we must know and believe, in our hearts, that our Imam is always with us, always, with or without Jamat Khana, He is always with us and that our remembrance and practice is not bound by any physical boundaries and space. We too, need to remember Him, and follow His guidance all the time.
Let us start this new year (Navroz) with that intention, and ask for His forgiveness and start over with presence and practice of our faith in our hearts, in our actions and in the lives we live. Ameen and Navroz Mubarak!
Afsheen Ali is an entrepreneur, currently residing in Birmingham, Alabama, U.S.A