I start off by thanking Almighty Allah (SWT), Imam Ridha (as) and Bibi Ma’sumah (as) for granting me the opportunity to mentor on the Madinah and Bab Summer Course for the second consecutive year. Reflecting on the course stirs up many different emotions within me, most strongly an extreme nostalgia and a yearning to be back there.
I feel blessed to have been able to serve the visitors of such great personalities. I feel happy thinking about the strong bonds of brotherhood formed between mentors and participants and it saddens me that the experience is over and I have now returned back to my everyday life.
Spending nearly a month away from home can seem very daunting. However, from the moment I landed in Iran, I felt like I was returning back home. There is something so special about the cities of Qum and Mashhad that I cannot describe it in words. I think it is a combination of being in the close proximity of the Shrines of the Ahlulbayt (as), being in a place where the majority of the population share the same beliefs as you, as well as the presence of so many great scholars.
All of these factors, together with the number of opportunities that being a mentor on this course had to offer, helped in both my personal and spiritual development. The journey for the mentors began a few days before the participants so that we could attend the three-day Mentor Development Program at the World Federation Qum Office.
The development program, facilitated by Sheikh Abbas Ismail and Brother Qasim Gulamhusein, brought together different aspects of personal and spiritual growth that in turn came together and helped me to be a mentor on a course such as this one. The personal growth focused on getting to know ourselves, including our strengths and weaknesses, which was beneficial for me not only on the course, but also in my day-to-day life.
The spiritual side of the program included reflections on verses of the Holy Qur’an as well as inspirational talks by Sheikh Kumayl Rajani and Sheikh Mohammed Khalfan. At the end of the 3 days, I felt prepared for my role and could not wait to meet all of the participants.
The number of activities that were packed into the short three week period always kept all of us occupied. These included classes, ziyarats, visiting scholars, sight-seeing, sports and other recreational activities and of course – shopping! Field trips were also organised to Hamedan, Tehran and Nishapoor. Each day was jam packed with a few hours of sleep squeezed in before starting all over again the next day.
Even with such busy schedules, it was heartening to see that the boys wanted to do all they could to gain the most out of the experience. They would be eager to visit the Shrine of Bibi Ma’sumah (as) and Imam Ridha (as) for Fajr Salaat even though it meant missing out on what was already limited sleep time.
As the course went on, the bonds of brotherhood that had formed between the mentors and participants grew stronger and more family-like. One thing that stands out for me from this year’s course was the amount of fun and laughter we shared as a group. Whether that was the mentors recounting funny stories about the weird and wonderful conversations we had with some of the (half-awake!) boys when waking them up for Fajr, looking at photos of those who had been caught during their sleep, or at a certain mentor (me) tripping over the fan in the middle of the night!
Although we all knew that the course would have to come to an end, it felt like the final day came too quickly and it was soon time for this big family to return to their own homes. Having been on this course as a participant four years ago, and as a mentor last year, I know that this is the most difficult part of the course. It is made even more difficult by the fact that we were also bidding farewell to our 8th Holy Imam and his sister who had watched over us during our time in Iran. With heavy hearts we departed Iran, all promising to keep in touch in the future.
I would like to thank the World Federation and all of the regional federations for all the time, effort and dedication they put into making these courses such a great success. Thank you to Sheikh Kumayl Rajani and his team at the Qum Office, to all of the teachers for their inspiring classes, to my fellow mentors who were a constant source of support for me and to all of the participants for making this year a truly enjoyable experience.
If someone was to ask me tomorrow if I would like to do this again, I would grab the opportunity with both hands. So to all those who are considering attending either as a participant or a mentor next year, stop thinking and go for it. It is a decision you will never regret and that can change your life.
Being a mentor on such a course is mentally, physically and spiritually challenging, but experience will help you grow as an individual. I cannot begin describe how rewarding it feels to be part of even one person’s journey towards Allah (SWT) and you will only know this for yourself after being part of such an amazing course.
Finally, I would like to thank all those who donate towards the costs of running these courses so that the World Federation can continue offering them to our youth. As a participant I have experienced first-hand how life-changing this course is, and over the past two years, I have seen it having the same impact on the lives of others. May Allah (SWT) reward you all!
Birmingham Jamaat - UK