Minibus to the Mosque
Towards the end of 2018 a group from St Faith’s travelled by car and minibus to the Al Mahdi mosque in Fareham for an evenings’ visit arranged by our curate Steve Dent who has previous links with Sheikh Fazle Abbas Datoo, the Imam. On arrival we assembled outside and were warmly welcomed by the Imam and members of the mosque who were clearly delighted to have us with them.
The visit began with a tour around the outside of the building which was opened in September 2012 and sensitively designed to blend in with its surroundings. Solar panels and natural underground sources provide all the light and warmth required for the building and the beautifully tended grounds surrounding the mosque are filled with produce, flowers and a well-equipped play area for children.
After the tour we went inside and listened to a fascinating talk on the history of the mosque, the beliefs and practices of the Shia Muslim faith and the meaning of all the symbols on display. When the talk was over we were invited to witness the evening prayers, the last of their five daily prayers.
To aid our understanding we were given printed leaflets with translations of the prayers and explanatory notes on the procedure. The prayers were followed by a refreshment break and a chance to enjoy the oranges, scones, fruit juice and other delights which had been especially prepared for our visit. The evening ended with a question and answer session during which we were encouraged to speak freely and ask whatever we wanted.
My abiding memories of the visit will be the warmth of our welcome, the kindness showed to us throughout our time there and the clear desire on the part of our hosts to further the fellowship between us. They already have strong links with their neighbouring churches and the Interfaith Community at Portsmouth Cathedral. Their own community is thriving with 75 families and 80 children. They are very keen to welcome others to visit their centre. Details of how to contact them, as well as information on some of their activities, can be found at www.almahdi.org.uk/news.
One such activity is the ‘Ramadhan CAN-paign’ organised by the young people of the community. The month of Ramadhan is a time when all of the community, as well as all Muslims, fast from sunrise to sunset; a period of nearly 18 hours. This gives the young people an insight into how it feels to stay hungry and inspired them to help those in the community who don’t have access to even the bare minimum of food each day. The ‘CAN-paign’ raised a large amount of tinned food which was donated to the Fareham and Gosport food banks which I wrote about in November 2018.
At the end of our visit I left hoping that further meetings will be arranged and that, if a group from the mosque visits our church, they will find that we are as welcoming to them as they were to us. With so much in the media that concentrates on the extremist minority, whom they find as repugnant as the rest of us, it was good to discover that we can form friendships and, in building closer bonds between us, doubtless learn much from each other. Meanwhile I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.