When I landed in the USA in Newark New Jersey for the al-Maghrib course, the first thing that popped in my mind was Masjid al-Taqwa! You see, for many of us 90′s MSA’ers, Masjid al-Taqwa was our spiritual umbilical cord. In those days, 1000 tapes landed somehow, in everyone’s cars and homes. The voice on those tapes was a spark of light, a gift of hope and the sound of reason and unity. It was Imam Siraj. Siraj means sun and by Allah he is a sun that walks on the face of this earth. The rays that came from him have brought light and warmth to our communities and protected us from the bitter cold of our enemies. I asked our Qabila leader, Uzair the balla, to take me to Imam Siraj. We called his masjid and a sister said, Mothers of the Believer! Come over tomorrow before dhur.
We left around 11 and all the while I was thinking, “this is my first visit to the Imam. How many times has he visited the communities I’ve lived in?”
An Imam Siraj Moment
Once, around 10 years ago, I was asked by the Malaysian Islamic Studies Group, who were having a gathering in Missouri, to go to the airport and pick up the Imam. It was cold, snowy and most importantly it was “The Night Before Christmas.” I was so excited and raced to pick up the Imam.
As we drove back to the gathering (a good hour away) the Imam began to ask me questions and get to know me. Allah says, “We created you to know one another.”
Imam Siraj: “Suhaib! What do you say to people in stores when the say “Merry Christmas!”
Suhaib “I just don’t respond and leave the story quietly.”
Imam Siraj “You what?”
Suhaib, the scared gora: “I just leave……”
Imam Siraj: “Brother. Don’t do that! That is a dawa moment. Tell them in a nice manner that you don’t celebrate Christmas. It is a great way to talk with each other and get to know each other.”
So there we were, driving in the dead of night, a large African American Male and an even larger white man (yes I can dunk on Imam Siraj Wahaj and he knows it. Although I heard he put it down on Dr. Jackson), during a snow storm, in Missouri and, worst of all, Ashcroft was still their Senator.
Visiting Masjid al-Taqwa
When we arrived at the Masjid we were meet by one of the sisters who was very cordial and escorted us to the Imam’s office. We greeted the Imam, sat and talked.
Imam: “What are you having for lunch and where are you giving the khutbah tomorrow?”
Suhaib: “We’ll we are fine Imam. We just wanted to see you and ask you to pray for us.”
Imam: “You don’t come to Brooklyn and leave without food.”
Commentary by Suhaib:
We had decided to fast that day, since the next day was our Maghrib class. However, we were to shy to say no to Imam Siraj. Dr. ‘Obeid was with us as well and we didn’t know he was fasting also. So we felt, out of adab with the Imam, that we would eat. The funny thing is that, to our surprise, the Imam was fasting as well. Thus, we all broke our fasts out of our love for our fellow brothers even though we didn’t know we were fasting. It was really a special moment that I’m finding trouble putting into words.
The Imam’s community is really nice, human and down to earth. They have more that 41 different ethnic groups and you never hear the words “Immigrant and indigenous.” One of my teachers scolded me yesterday for using such terms saying, “It is a call to ignorance! Be careful.” The Imam makes people feel welcome, opens his doors to them and knows his community. It was a special day that we will always remember, the day we were blessed to visit the Imam of America: Siraj Wahhaj.