UNDER CONSTRUCTION: These are draft pages subject to review.
Once upon a time there lived in the vibrant city of Singapore a small community comprising members from many diverse ethnic, cultural and professional backgrounds. But they were bound together by one common factor – their love for the Prophet s.a.w. and Ahlulbayt a.s. It was for this reason perhaps that around 40 of them had boarded a virtual Ark on a sunny Friday morning in the month of January 2019.
They were keen to interact with each other in a way that not only satisfies the human urge to socialise but that also helps their self-improvement efforts in terms of leading a meaningful life – a life that pleases their Creator.
They understood the benefits of a forum that enabled like minded members to learn from and be motivated by each other and create synergy (two heads are better than one). They knew that each of us has to carry out our own striving to purify our hearts and minds (jehad e nafs) through continuous learning, self-building and good deeds. Doing alone at home is one way but together one can achieve much more.
Four of us had formed a whatsapp group to handle logistics of an outing with our respected Maulana during his visit to recite in Singapore. Some time later, Maulana made an offer we could not refuse. He asked if we wanted to be his reading partners. Surely this was an opportunity not to be missed – an opportunity to benefit from his cutting edge Islamic studies.
This enticing offer came at a time when some of us were feeling the absence of an actively managed group in our community that is focused on spiritual self-improvement of members – a group that works for unity among all shia in Singapore, encourages attendance at our madressah, at AECC and other centres, motivates more of us to volunteer, a group which generates creative ideas to attract youth to come together, learn, form friendships and be able to swim against the tides of these dangerous times – tides that mislead young minds through tempting offers and manipulation through internet and ungodly media.
And so, we expanded the group.
WHO WE ARE : We are muslims who love our beloved Prophet (saw) and his Pure Household (Ahlulbayt a.s.) and we seek to follow their examples and be loved by them. And our aim in coming together in the expanded group is basically to help each other in becoming close to Allah swt by holding on to the two weighty things – the Quran and the Ahlulbayt a.s.
WHO WE ARE NOT: Members of the three shia organisations in our country (like arkians) are rich in diversity in terms of nationality, ethnicity, culture and language etc. Differences of opinion and disputes may arise from time to time within or among these organisations. The Ark group, as a group, is not designed to get involved in such disputes. Arkians, as individuals, have their rights to their views and should seek redress or channel their suggestions to the appropriate channels of the relevant shia organisation. When interacting among ourselves in the Ark group, we should refrain from taking sides or doing anything that affects unity or is contrary to the other specified values of our group. We should not interfere with mancoms and their duties. If asked to assist, we should do our best to generate ideas and recommendations based on truth and justice. The overarching idea is to help all our communities become professionally run institutions that adopt best governance practices with emphasis on quality and integrity, insha Allah.
WHY THE ARK? We decided to build a (virtual) Ark to take us on our life’s journey. After all, man is just a traveller on this earth. Sent here for a short stay to strive hard and pass the tests of life and return, in sha Allah, to a heavenly eternal abode at the end of the journey.
An Ark provides us a sense of journeying as well as a feeling of coziness, bonding, peace and tranquility amidst the blue ocean and cool breezes. Imagine the blessings one can look forward to from the great company on board, from insightful discussions and sublime duas to virtual congregational prayers on its deck to the ability to sail virtually to other countries. (arkians have already visited Marawi virtually as guests of our arkian Sheikh and look forward to being hosted in other countries).
The Ark of Ahlulbayt Lovers, dedicated to our beloved Prophet s.a.w. and his Pure Household and dedicated especially to Imam of our time, Imam Mahdi Atfs, set sail on a Friday in January 2019 with around 40 excited arkians on board.
Membership of the group has grown from a handful to 69 as of April 2022. Members include brothers and sisters, young and old, from all the three shia organisations in Singapore as well as a few from outside Singapore. We have started writing this account of some of our conversations and learnings and experiences aboard our beloved Ark in the hope that all readers and especially the future generations will benefit from the lessons we learnt. And be inspired by the severe but successful struggles of many, especially the first generation of reverts to true Islam, to swim against the strong currents and the testing tides of our times.
ULTIMATE GOAL: To become close to Allah swt
ACTION STEPS: Promote brotherhood and help each other in the group as well as all other fellow human beings:
1. To worship Allah swt with understanding (ma’refat) and sincerity in order to become deserving of His guidance.
2. To acquire Quranic and other relevant knowledge and skills and act on it with humility in order to become deserving of His gift of wisdom.
3. To love, learn from, and follow our Prophet saw and Ahlulbayt as and attract others to them by reflecting in ourselves their good character and morals (akhlaaq). And to prepare actively for reappearance of Imam Mahdi atjfs
4. To strengthen our belief (emaan), do good deeds and enjoin truth and patience in order to escape from the loss mentioned in Surah Asr.
OUR MAIN PRIORITY/CONCERN:
Protecting ourselves and especially our children and youth from attacks of the enemy. These are intensifying by the day, sometimes invisible, using sophisticated technology, psychology, fake news, temptations and brainwashing by the ungodly media. An indication of the severity of this issue is that the talk we used to hear about islam growing fast and converting others is heard less these days. More and more we hear and worry about questions like: will my children be affected by the LGBT movement, will they even be muslims when they grow up or will they join the ex-muslim groups sprouting up.
1. Treat others as you would like others to treat you.
2. Do not judge others. Allah swt is the Judge. He has not delegated this duty to us.
3. Do not make promises you cannot keep. Avoid excuses once a promise is made.
4. Look for ways to bond as a close family-like group, help each other (unity in diversity)
5. Frank and candid communication. Positive strokes (no taunts, personal attacks, egoistic behaviour)
6. Quality in all we do (compliance with requirements, doing right the first time, zero defects)
7. Share useful experiences and knowledge. Silence is good but not in all circumstances. (hadith about sharing being the zakat of knowledge we are blessed with)
8. Enjoy the learning and sharing and the ups and downs … journey is often more exciting than the destination
9.Time flies. Do not waste this precious gift (if the group is not adding value to our self-improvement we should actively help in restructuring and rectifying the deficiencies in the group)
10. Strive for Continuous Improvement (hadith about man being in loss if two days are the same)
11. Become street-wise, gain access to tactics of the enemy to find ways to defend our faith.
12. Change is inevitable. Become the leaders of change that elevates us as the best of creation. Do not become followers of change presented by evil forces that leads to eternal damnation in hell.
We finalised Goals, Action Steps and Core Values and had serious discussions on the priorities like youth issues and low attendances at AECC events. We read and exchanged views on 5 books including 3 led by Maulana. Learnt about priming and more in Blink, about inevitability of change and coping mechanisms in Who Moved the Cheese, about aiming for spiritual perfection and helping others and much more in Jonathan Livingston, about existence of God, parenting and youth issues in Journey to Fact and about spirituality in a book on Irfan. .
During the first 3 months, activities also included a daily segment to help us get into the habit of starting each day in the most beautiful and productive way. Is there is a better way to feel spiritual joy than during salat at the serene and soulful time of fajr. And that too amidst the blue sea, the soothing sound of water as it touches the Ark, the sweet tweets of the birds, the morning breeze kissing the cheeks as we bow down together in sajda to our Rabb, the Merciful Lord?
During those initial months, the first post of the day by admin appeared early every morning. Following is an example:
“DAY 27 Wednesday on the Ark of Ahlulbayt Lovers
Salaam to all Arkians
We start the day in the name of Allah swt, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful.
And what better way to start the day than by doing fajr salat in time and with presence of heart, dua and actions to hasten the reappearance of our Imam ajfs and praying for all oppressed in the world. Then collecting some gems from the best book and hadith and duas. Today’s gifts we just received with a click on Daily Dose of Islam in our website ………….”
This is followed by study of two pages of the Quran by admin and a post highlighting important verses
Rest of the day is for posts from everyone, book discussions etc.
Arkians were urged to come up with themes and posts that suited their interests and expertise. Ideally these can best be described as ones that will help each other in our self improvement (our own jihad e nafs) and hence related to achieving our goals, action steps and in particular the internalising of our core values such as good aklaaq, effective communications skills, unity, bringing sincerity, quality and ma’refat into our worship. Anything that makes us better muslims to an extent that we can become deserving of guidance from Allah swt.