Back in the Nineties, Islam was growing very rapidly in the United States through both conversion and immigration. Muslims started living everywhere, even in Small Town, USA. Islamic centers were popping up in many cities and neighborhoods throughout the country. Though the increase in Muslims was a delightful phenomenon, it exacerbated the differences in the practice of Islam due the various cultures, nationalities, sects and sources of Islamic knowledge available. As a consequence of these differences, confusion, mistrust, disputes and division were occurring in many Muslim communities. Fighting about the beginning and end of the month of Ramadan, halal meat, the direction of the Qibla, Islamic groups, organizations and other aspects of the Deen was commonplace. Indeed, there was a great need for Muslims to come together for the pleasure of Allah and the advancement of Islam.
Keenly aware and concerned about the state of affairs, Sheikh Muhammad S. Adly, the Imam of the Islamic Center of Columbia, SC, began visiting various communities in the Carolinas, inviting Muslims to come together to address these conditions. During the course of 1993 to 1994, imams and representatives from 15 communities held four meetings that were originally called “The North Carolina-South Carolina Islamic Initiative”. The theme of this initiative was “Communities of the Qur’an and Sunnah Getting Together For Collective Activity, But Not to Interfere in Local Organizations”. During a meeting at Islamic Society of Greater Charlotte on December 10, 1994, the group formally adopted the name Carolina Islamic Council and elected Sheikh Adly to be the Coordinator. Its major goals included: strengthening relations among Muslim communities, sharing ideas, increasing awareness of problems and promoting Islamic education/activities in Accordance with the Qur’an and Sunnah.
The CIC is a voluntary association. Any masajid could become a part of it and participate in its activities. Membership did not require fees, dues or a commitment to abide by any of its recommendations. One of its first policy recommendations was implementing the “Unity of Moon Sighting” method for the start and end of the month of Ramadan. At that time, it was quite common for communities and individuals to begin or stop fasting based on astronomical calculations, reports of moon sightings back home or by seeing the crescent moon locally. Use of these various methods often led to members of some communities to begin or end fasting on three different days. The CIC’s policy contributed to a uniformed approach. However, in accordance with its principle of not interfering into local affairs, each community was free to choose its own method and participate in any activities that suited its interests.
At that time there was a scarcity of Islamic knowledge. Only Columbia, Charlotte and Raleigh had full time imams, who were educated and trained in formal Islamic institutions. Therefore, there was a tremendous need to share Islamic knowledge between fortunate communities with trained imams and communities that didn’t have such imams. Spreading Islamic knowledge was a key objective and the representatives developed a program around it; This consisted of four workshops each year and a conference.
The workshops were held in four different locations, preferably with two in each state. The host community allows any visiting participant, including families, to spend Friday night in the masjid in order to participate in activities throughout the day on Saturday. Lectures were held after each prayer beginning with Fajr. The imams held a meeting mid-morning to share ideas, discuss issues and plan future workshops. The host also provided breakfast, lunch and tours of community facilities. Many host communities make the workshops a special community event to promote maximum participation. The program also included an annual one-day conference during summer that was hosted by a member community. Costs of the workshop and the conferences were borne by the host community. After seven years, the CIC discontinued the annual conference but continued its workshops. Since 1995, it has held more than eighty of them, which have produced more than three hundred lectures from the invited Imams, Islamic scholars and activists. The remaining workshops for 2017 are scheduled for: April 22nd at the Islamic Society of Greenville, SC, July 22nd at the Islamic Center of Wilmington, NC and November 11th at the Islamic Center of Columbia.
Previous lectures and videos are available on YouTube, almasjid.com and the Carolina Islamic Council Google Group. Workshops are also streamed live on Facebook by Imam Muhammad.
Now, in its 22nd year, the Carolina Islamic Council faces the challenge of attracting more member communities and turning over its administration to younger imams and representatives. Alhamdulillah, Allah has blessed many masaajid and Islamic centers with full-time imams who were educated at Islamic institutions; increasing its ability to spread Islamic knowledge to more participants. The CIC must also endeavor to use modern technology to invite more participation in its programs and on the internet. Now is the time for younger representatives, more knowledgeable in social media and new technology, to step forward to fill the big shoes of the “old guard” who Allah has blessed to initiate this beneficial association. May Allah preserve the Carolina Islamic Council and increase its membership and good works!