The work of CIMS goes beyond attempts to polemically defend or ignore historical differences. Instead it encourages mutual understanding, honest dialogue, critical engagement and collegiality as an impetus for new, joined-up, collaborative studies, thinking and teaching which can draw upon, and speak to, a breadth of Muslim traditions beyond the limits of sectarian narratives.
Since its inception in 2015, as a joint initiative of a network of Sunni and Shia scholars, CIMS has been at the forefront of providing a platform for honest, open and critical engagement on issues of historical and theological tension amongst Sunni and Shi’i thought.
Meetings , held at least four times a year, gather scholars to discuss issues historically understood as points of contention and sometimes deep misunderstanding, learning from each other, identifying points of agreement, difference and scope for reconciling relations through scholarly harmony and understanding.
These gatherings have become a platform for CIMS to work beyond the distinction of Sunni and Shia, thinking together, towards addressing shared challenges.
A hub providing scholarly forums dedicated towards reconciling relations amongst Muslims through better understanding the diversity and difference within and across Muslim traditions.
Hosting CIMS scholarly meetings and developing the CIMS scholarly network, producing resources and content that can inform the wider Muslim Community
In 2015, a small group of scholars including Dr Mohammad Khalid and Shaykh Arif Abdul Hussain, agreed to hold regular meetings bringing together Sunni and Shi’a scholars to discuss issues of contention and misunderstanding towards increasing mutual understanding and harmony amongst Muslims. The first years activities, a series of meetings and discussions which launched CIMS, were kindly supported by a generous donation from an individual based in South London who wished to remain anonymous. The donor had spent many years working to bridge relationships between Sunni and Shi’a community leaders and activists, and through this work recongised the need and importance of increasing understanding amongst scholars- the core remit of CIMS.
- CIMS is governed within the structures of the Al-Mahdi Institute, a U.K. registered charity. CIMS has two co-directors, Dr Mohammad Khalid and Dr Ali-Reza Bhojani, that oversee CIMS activities in consultation with CIMS members and the broader CIMS network. CIMS activities are driven by a part-time paid member of staff, Shaykh Ali-Redha Khaki, who combines this work with a wider remit of responsibilities at the Al-Mahdi Institute. CIMS benefits greatly from the broader administrative and infrastructural support of the Al-Mahdi Institute.
CIMS meetings hold a variety of formats, but all share in their commitment to open, honest discussions in a spirit of collegiality towards shared learning. A meeting will typically include presentations on a specific theme from different perspectives (e.g. Sunna and Shi’a) followed by extensive, critical scholarly discussions amongst participants. Videos and resources, such as detailed papers or PowerPoint presentations, are made available after the event. A written summary of the event is always posted online, this often includes agreed outcomes of similarities and differences, sharing the scholarly content of the session with a wider grassroots audience.
CIMS meetings are held at least 4-6 times a year
CIMS has a growing network of scholars from around the world that participate in its regular meetings. This increasingly diverse group has grown organically out of a small group of Sunni and Shia scholars who were the founding members. Participants within meetings are by invitation of the directors. CIMS welcome recommendations for participants who have a commitment to shared learning, despite difference, towards mutual understanding. We particularly welcome recommendations that would help us better reflect the diversity of scholars and scholarship informing the Muslim community around the world.
The co-directors, in consultations with broader CIMS members, invite specific scholars to address the pre-agreed themes identified for each CIMS meetings. These are often existing CIMS members, yet there is a concerted effort to seek to continually broaden the CIMS network through inviting a wide range of diverse Sunni and Shia voices to present at CIMS.
“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”