This data was last updated on 12 June 2018.
History: Before the purchase of the building in Hopkinton, the founding families of the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England did not have a permanent place of worship for their small and scattered community. Since the late seventies, these families met at homes, schools, and churches in eastern Massachusetts. Other Shi’ite Muslim families in the area, who would later join the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England, first worshipped in two key places. Some attended the Worchester Islamic Center in the early eighties while others frequented a Lebanese mosque in Roslindale. However, neither places of worship could accommodate the large number of worshippers. The catalyst to purchase property for a mosque was a visiting Indian scholar who spent time with the community in the early nineties (1992-95). Observing the growing numbers of Shi’ite Muslims in the New England area, he thought it would be advisable to establish a mosque in Massachusetts. Inspired by the advice, one member working in real estate found a church for sale in Hopkinton, Massachusetts that was spacious and suitable for the activities they envisioned at the mosque. Seven families pooled their money together and bought the plot in 1995, investing in what they hoped would become a home for Shi’ite Muslims in New England.
Demographics: The Islamic Masumeen Center of New England serves a mostly South Asian community, mostly of Pakistani descent. Many families who worship at the Center moved to the suburbs of Boston in search of work in the field of information-technology. Lectures are usually held in Urdu, and Sunday school language classes are offered in Urdu and Arabic to solidify the communities' cultural ties to South Asia. Because the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England is one of the very few Shi’ite Islam mosques in New England, its community members are spread wide across the New England area and are willing to make substantial trips to attend a mosque of their tradition. One core group of members who attend regularly live in Hopkinton and surrounding towns such as Westborough. For larger events, members come from as far as Maine and Connecticut to the mosque, crowding the large property. For Friday Jum’a prayers and the Thursday Shab-e-Jum’a Aamaal prayer, about ten to fourteen members attend while about three times as many come for special lectures. The mosque welcomes over 200 worshippers during large holidays such as the birth of the Prophet Muhammad, the month of Muharram, and the month of Ramadan.
Description: The Islamic Masumeen Center of New England is housed in a large white ranch-style building off of a quiet road in Hopkinton, Massachusetts. A small field and thin line of woods surround the center, providing space for large events and separating the mosque from the small residential properties that surround it. The building contains a wide range of spaces that serve the broad needs of the community. The first floor houses the main worship space with a movable wall that separates the men and women's worship areas. In a further back portion of the mosque, there are several classrooms and offices used by the administrative committees and the mosque's Sunday school. The basement holds a large kitchen and eating space that is used regularly for potlucks after large events or lectures.
Since the mosque opened in 1995, the community has slowly grown as more immigrant families move into the area and second and third generation families expand. Clear evidence of this growth can be seen in Sunday school attendance, which has grown over the past seven years to about 80 students. Cognizant of the need for more space and improvement to the facilities, the Charitable Trust and Executive Committee of the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England put together ambitious plans for an expansion and renovation of the current center. Renovations have been accomplished at the center but a full-scale expansion and renovation have not yet been scheduled. The plans for the new space, proposed to the town of Hopkinton in May of 2004, include a larger worship area, an education center for lectures and interfaith events, additional classrooms, and apartments for the school's principle, mosque's imam, and visiting scholars. The cost is estimated at $1.2 million and approximately a quarter of the funding has been raised thus far from donations. In March 2006, after two years of fundraising and not reaching their fiscal goals, the trustees decided that the time to raise funds be extended until April 2008. If the committee does not receive the necessary funds by April 2009, the trustees will design a new renovation project appropriate to their funding.
Activities and Schedule: The weekly activities at the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England include a Friday Jum’a prayer service and Shab-e-juma Aamaal, a Thursday evening gathering, where the Du'a Kumayl prayer is recited. This prayer was received from Imam Ali Ibn Abi Talib by a man named Kumayl, who was told to recite the supplementary prayer regularly as a means of protection and devotion. The mosque also has a youth Sunday school, offering classes in Islamic principles, history, fiqh (jurisprudence), the Qur'an, Arabic, and Urdu. It is the most popular program at the Center with approximately 80 students enrolled. During the year, the community celebrates the birth and death of the Fourteen Imams, or teachers, of this particular Shi’ite tradition of Islam. They are believed to have passed down the uncorrupted knowledge of Muhammad through their family line, beginning with the prophet Muhammad to his son-in-law and cousin Ali. The Fourteen Imams are believed to have rightful leadership over the Muslim community because they were part of this lineage and were the ones chosen of their generation to receive the secret knowledge. At these events, the mosque will bring in a speaker to lecture about the respective imam followed by a late communal dinner. The largest events next to those celebrated during Ramadan and Eid Al-Adha, are the birthday and death celebrations of the prophet Muhammad and his progeny: Fatima, his daughter, and the 12 Imams.
Leadership: There are two leadership groups of the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England that are responsible for its administration, funding, and events. The Masumeen Charitable Trust consists of fourteen trustees who are the owners and final clearance board for decisions made regarding the mosque. Of the fourteen current trustees, seven are life members while the remainder are elected. The Imamia Muslim Foundation Executive Committee is comprised of six members of the community who are elected for a two year period to run the activities of the mosque such as lectures, the Sunday school, community outreach, and raising funds for the mosque's large expansion plans.
Youth Perspectives: Although the Center serves a fluctuating number of worshippers during the year, the mosque’s founding families have made this house of worship a home. In turn, their children have embraced the Center as a spiritual refuge and a place to "build their identity" as Muslims, as expressed by Amna Bukhari, a recent college graduate and worshipper at the Center. Young people interviewed at the Center in July 2007 explained that their connection to the Center grew from shared dinners, sleepovers, and especially Sunday school. After September 11, the Center became increasingly important for the youth who looked to the Center as a place to find "community reaffirmation." Amna Bukhari feels September 11 was the impetus for her and other young people at the mosque to start asking questions about their religious community, such as: “How can we build a strong Muslim community in America? Are we, as Muslims, too isolated from our society? What decisions have our elders made for us? And, how can we, as the next generation of Muslims leaders in America, work towards a better public image of our faith in the face of hostility, fear, and ignorance?” Inspired by such questioning, young people who are still part of the Sunday school have maintained a youth group and, in recent years, began publishing a quarterly publication called Salsabil. The publication was named after the river that runs through paradise.
Outreach and Interfaith Activity: The members of the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England have historically been active in interfaith activity and outreach efforts, even before they had acquired their mosque in 1995. Within their faith community, members of this Shi’ite mosque have maintained connections with the Sunni-based Worchester Islamic Center and the Islamic Center of Boston Wayland. While relations between Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims in New England have always been cordial, the symbolic significance of these connections have grown despite events abroad that emphasized sectarian divisions. Leaders of the mosque hope to eventually hold joint events with these mosques to build a stronger sense of community amongst Muslims in Massachusetts. As an additional act of solidarity with other Muslim groups in the Boston area, the Islamic Masumeen Center of New England welcomes an Iranian Muslim group to use their center on Saturdays.
Outside of the Muslim community, the Center has organized and participated in different interfaith and outreach programs. Beginning in 2002, members of the Masumeen Center have been participating in the Middle East Forum in Stow, Massachusetts. Organized by a Unitarian group, the forum discusses Christian and Muslim relations and current events in the Middle East to develop understanding and respect between the communities. With the intentions of building bridges between groups, the Center has visited churches and schools to talk about Islam and its relationship to Christianity. Individual members of the congregation have also invited those curious about their community to their homes for a public lunch as an informal space to meet and ask questions. One founding member of the mosque, Mahmud Jafri, started the Muslim-Jewish Dialogue of Greater Boston in 2002, which runs interfaith events, a weekly radio program, and gives sponsorship to those attending the International Summer School on Religious and Public Life. Over fifty people from various religious organizations attended the group’s annual meeting in 2006, which discussed the controversy surrounding the Islamic Society of Boston Cultural Center lawsuits. Reactions to the Shi’ite Muslim community in Hopkinton have been positive. After September 11, neighbors to the Shi’ite mosque came with gifts and expressed their support for the mosque, asking the Muslim community to let them know of any problems they encounter in the future.