Shi'i Ithnasheri Community of Middlesex (SICM)
The organisation is known as Shi'i Ithnasheri Community of Middlesex (SICM) and its centre in North Harrow is known as Mehfil-e-Ali. SICM also has a registered charity operating under the name of Battlers Well Foundation (BWF).
The origins of SICM can be traced to the arrival in the UK of a number of students from East Africa in the mid sixties. Soon, These students got aquainted with other Shi'i students from Pakistan, India, Iran, Iraq and Gulf countries.
There was already a resident Pakistani community and the students participated enthusiastically in organisations like the Idara-e-Ja'aferiyya. In the universities and colleges the Shi'i students formed an organisation called the Muslim Youth Association (MYA).
These activities resulted in the formation of close bonds between Shi'i students and communities from all over the world. The small community of Khoja Shi'is from East Africa had an organisation called the East African Union, but for religious functions particiapted with the Muslim Youth Association or theIdara-e-Ja'aferiyya.
With the events in East Africa forcing many families to leave their countries and settle in the UK, the early seventies saw a large influx of people into the UK. Many of the East African Muslim students also stayed on in the UK on a more or less permanent basis.
As the needs for holding religious and other community functions became more regular and the community became larger, the requirement for "permanent" places became urgent. SICM was one of the many organisations which was established to meet this growing need.
The Founding of SICM
With a sizeable settled community in Middlesex, there emerged the practice of having regular Iftar in Ramadhan, initially in individual houses and later in hired halls in the vicinity of Harrow. There were already over 100 Shi'i Muslim families living within 2/3 miles of the centre of Harrow and the gatherings were well attended.
Gradually, the activities evolved and an organisation called the Shi'i Ithnasheri Community of Middlesex (SICM) was formed to provide an institutional framework for arranging the meetings and gatnerings. In addition to Ramadhan, gatherings began to be held on every Friday evening and on the occasion of the birth or death anniversry of the a'aimmas. Local community/assembly halls were hired for this purpose.
For the last twenty years on every Friday evening SICM has had a meeting in which a wide variety of issues relating to Islam and the Muslim World have been discussed. Learned and competent people from all walks of life have contributed to the discussions on many occassions.
SICM, after a long process of lobbying of the local authority was able to secure the rental of the West Harrow school premises on a 12 monthly basis. With the rental of premises, the activities increased manifold. In addition to regular Friday functions, SICM started daily Qur'an classes for young children, daily evening congregational prayer (salaat), morning salaat on weekends, regular sports sessions and many other specialised meetings and seminars. There was a major seminar on the Nahj al Balagah and one on the Concept of Vilayat-e-Faqih. Mohurrum majalis were also held for the first time.
As the rental of the West Harrow school came up for renewal SICM was fortunate enough to persuade the Harrow borough to let the North Harrow Assembly Hall (NHAH) to the organisation. The NHAH was by then under the threat of closure because of cuts in local authority budgets. As expected within a year the Hall came up for sale. SICM, with the help of its Councillors, well wishers, and supporting bankers was able to acquire the Hall as its permanent worship, meeting and gathering place.
Inside North Harrow Assembly Hall
With the purchase of the premises, the activities of SICM have become much more consistent. Presently the following are regularly held:
• Friday programme, many times with prominent guests
• Occasional seminars and other programmes
• Iftar, Childrens' programme and Qur'an reading daily in Ramadhan
• Dua-e-Qumayl on Thursday evenings
• Majalis in English in Mohurrum and on birth and death anniversaries of Ma'asumin
• Weekly sports club at a local leisure centre
• Sports session for children on weekends
• Eid Prayers
• Gatherings by other Muslim organisations
In addition, SICM through the Battlers Well Foundation (BWF) has also secured a vital facility. A dedicated graveyard with over three hundred burial spaces has been secured at the Woodcock Hill Cemetry in Harefield. Already the cemetry houses about a 100 graves and efforts are in process to increase the land bank.
The BWF had also made plans to establish a Muslim school in Harefield and a 34 acre plot of land was secured at the Battlers Well Farm in Northwood. However, the more accomodating environment for Muslims in schools in the UK has led to the abandonment of the project for the foreseeable future.
The SICM centre is now well established. The main hall has recently been extensively refurbished and plans are in process to complete the refurbishment of the whole site during the course of 1998, inshallah. It is intended to incorporate the following activities:
• Library and information centre for Muslims and those seeking sources on Islam
• Internet access provision for the community
• Gusalkhana for the community
• Educational coaching classes
• Develop linkages with other Muslim communities and organisations
• Quaterly seminars on issues of relevance to the Muslim World
Throughout its 25 years of activity SICM has remained true to its objectives of bringing a diverse group of Shi'is together and also develop mutually re-inforcing and respectful relations with the Muslim community at large. This will continue to be its mission as it develops its activities further and becomes a focal point for Muslims in the North West of London.
SICM, Station Road, North Harrow, Middlesex HA2 6AG
SICM, PO Box 110, Harrow, Middlesex HA2 6RH
Fax: +44 (0)20 8863 5515 Ansaphone: +44 (0)20 8863 6152