Editorâ€™s note: These local Muslims, Mubeen Qureshi and Babar Qadri, wrote a series about local Detroit mosques, inviting communication between mosques by themselves coordinating a series of visits to mosques and writing about them. The Mission Statement of their organization: â€œMuslims Building Bridges is an opportunity for Muslims to not only visit masjds in the Metro Detroit area, but more importantly, to create new and fulfilling relationships with the brothers and sisters. This will grant us the vehicle, the platform to start integrating/including Muslims from other masjids to partake in events held at various masjids. It provides the opportunity to extend our hand of friendship and camaraderie to the various communities and start gaining the level of missing comfort and inclusion to unite the Ummah, at least for now on a local scale.â€
Sunday, August 19, 2012; Trip 5: Albanian Islamic Center
As we entered the Albanian Islamic Center, I nervously scanned my surroundings, unaware of what to expect of our venture today. Upon arriving through the entrance, we were greeted with the sounds of discussion, individuals respectfully welcoming each other, and the joyous reverberation of laughter throughout the room. Instantly, our previous apprehension transformed into feelings of gratitude and pleasure as we were welcomed by various brothers from Albania, Kosovo, Macedonia, and other Muslim countries, whom made us feel at home among them.
Our group circulated through the Balkan styled mosque, established in 1963,and eventually we became immersed in various conversations as we became acquainted with several of our brothers. Throughout this time, I observed several members of the Albanian Islamic Center help set up the food, offer dates to feed the hunger of a full day of fasting, and share bottles of water to quench the thirst brought on by this sacrifice for Godâ€™s pleasure. These brothers were setting up a feast with a strong motivation in their sights. Zaid ibn Khalid Juhni related that the Prophet (SAW) said, â€œHe who provides for the breaking of the Siyam of another person earns the same merit as the one who was without observing Siyam diminishing in any way the reward of the latterâ€ (Tirmidhi). After praying together, we made our way once again into the main hall to immerse ourselves in discussion with our brothers and indulge in culturally rich Albanian dining. It was after Salaat I realized that although we may all originate from varying backgrounds, the most important commonality among is that which serves to unite us – Islam. Alhamdulillah.
Once we had finished what had remained of the food that was graciously provided to us, and after Imam Shuajb Gerguri welcomed all the beautiful guests (Muslim and non), we listened to a brief speech by the leader of MBB, Babar Qadri, explaining the goals of Muslims Building Bridges, and emphasizing the strength and potential advantage that unity among Muslims can grant. He also mentioned that although we may come from such diversity, be it socioeconomic or cultural, our visible divisions and communal bias are becoming our own worst enemy; an enemy that the Shaytaan pleasures in and takes advantage of thus creating weakness within the Deen. Finally, Babar highlighted the goal of MBB which is to create bridges through these barriers and a central â€œpoint of lightâ€ where we can have a platform to better appreciate, contribute and participate with various Masajidsâ€™ programs.
Throughout this experience, we learned to appreciate not only what we have, but more importantly what we donâ€™t have. Once one steps out of his comfort zone and strives to meet new people and learns their struggles and becomes acquainted with their experiences, he truly realize how many blessings are overlooked with such ease. Islam is truly a peaceful religion, shared by nearly a quarter of the worldâ€™s population, emphasizing and answering moral and ethical aspects. If one really ponders it, man is made up of both a body and soul. Consequently, there needs to be something that provides for both the body and soul without neglecting one or the other. Ultimately, it is Islam that provides humans with the psychological sanctuary they need throughout life, through the mercy and direction of Allah. For many, if not all, Islam fills the void that many describe as an emptiness in their souls.
These journeys to visit our brothers and sisters reveals the importance of stepping outside of the conventional and striving to meet new people and attain new knowledge. How will we gain a true insight into other Muslims if we rarely leave our own front porch? It is necessary to realize that Islam is a universal religion, so why donâ€™t we aim at meeting more of our Muslims throughout the world? Insha Allah, we encourage everyone the opportunity to gain something unique from such experiences, just as we have.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Babar Qadri at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mubeen Qureshi at email@example.comJazakallah Khair for your time and we kindly ask that you keep us as well as the communities that we visit in your duaas. Next stop, Muslim Center of Detroit.
It was Ramadan, the sun was shining, and the weather was great. The stage was set for a beautiful expedition to Masjid Muaâ€™th bin Jabil with the MBB crew. The brothers at Muaâ€™th bin Jabil were hosting an open house for any who wished to come and help spread Islam to their Non-Muslim guests. We were graciously invited and we seized this opportunity to reunite with our Muslim brothers and sisters we have never met before. I say reunite because Allah (SWT) says in the Quran, â€œThe believers are but brothers, so make settlement between your brothers. And fear Allah that you may receive mercyâ€ (Surah Hujurat, Ayat 10). So our hopes were high that we would make many lifelong friends.
When we got to the vicinity of the Masjid we were pleased to see many indications of the Masjidâ€™s activities. We saw signs on the road that informed passersby about the open house and since the Masjid is in a residential area, the presence of the Muslim community could be felt. All along the streets there were brothers smiling and saying Salam as we made our way to the back of the Masjid. This is one of the big advantages of living in a close knit community in a city such as Detroit or Hamtramck, and is very different than what we experience in our everyday interactions with Muslims in the suburbs.
We entered the Masjid for the open house and as soon as we stepped in, we were enveloped in the festive gathering. There were brothers and sisters who had brought their friends, neighbors, and colleagues to come learn about Islam and naturally everyone was in an ecstatic mood. We shared stories and experiences of Islam and in return our Non-Muslim brothers told us of their experiences with Islam. One of the key characteristics about this open house was that it was more informal than others that had previously taken place. The group size was smaller and the interactions were less focused on lecture and more on conversation. As a consequence, this felt more effective because the interactions were not just informational but also meaningful. The brothers who had organized the open house at the Masjid were very wise to plan such a setup because everything was more heartfelt. Whether it was the story of how one brother decided to learn about Islam, or another brotherâ€™s explanation of the differences between coffee and â€œArabic coffeeâ€, we all felt like long-time friends.
After Salaat, our hosts had arranged for some amazing food from a local community restaurant. I had the privilege of eating with the chef and many other Muslim brothers. I rotated through 4 tables and all of the people I met were very unique and had amazing personalities. A couple of my meetings were also very coincidental. For example, one brother I met attended Al-Ikhlas Training academy and was on the same flag football team as a brother that MBB met the previous night at Masjid Wali Muhammad. Another brother I met seemed extremely familiar, till we both realized that we had met one time before at school. All in all, the hospitality and the dedication of the brothers at Masjid Muaâ€™th bin Jabil was a beautiful blessing of Allah (SWT). These brothers took it upon themselves to share the teachings of Islam along with the brotherhood and blind cohesion that comes with it and may Allah (SWT) reward them. Also, i must send a shout out to Chef Ali Obed from Royal Kabob for the amazing food.
Last but not least, the brothers at Masjid Muaâ€™th bin Jabil took us on a tour of the Masjid and I felt that the history of the Masjid should be honored. The Masjid is extremely beautiful not just in appearance but also spiritually. It is a renovation of a church and the remnants of the old church adds to the beauty of the Masjid. The Masjid had high ceilings and also a mezzanine area for the sisters. The sisters area (where the open house was hosted) had a huge stained glass window, which now serves as a partition between two rooms. The downstairs mens area has church doors that were retiled to add the name of Allah to them. The original architecture of the church was beautified by many additions including a new minbar that was finished the day of the open house. I feel that the change from Church to Masjid is very symbolic of the community and Islamic history.
The Church was repurposed into a Masjid which in itself is a beautiful thing and the brothers are working hard Alhamdulillah to also extend this to the surrounding areas. People are learning about the one true Deen and Alhamdulillah the same house that was once used by Christians to worship is now being used to house hundreds if not thousands of Muslims to praise Allah (SWT). This is a message that is also very close to the Yemeni community who are the majority of the worshippers there and should be very close to all Muslims. The beautiful religion of Islam that we have today is built from the hard work of The Prophet of Allah (SAW) and his Sahabah (R). One of these great Sahabahs is Muaâ€™th bin Jabil (R) who dedicated his life to teaching Islam. Muaâ€™th bi Jabil (R) is significant because after Rasulullah (SAW) won the hearts of the Makkans, he left behind Muaâ€™th bin Jabil (R) as one of the Sahabahs who would help teach the new Muslims. Also when the people of Yemen accepted Islam, Rasulullah (SAW) sent a group of teachers who were lead by Muaâ€™th bin Jabil (R) to Yemen to teach the masses. The dedication of Muaâ€™th bin Jabil (R) to Allah (SWT) and his Rasul (SAW) was shown when Rasulullah (SAW) bid Muaâ€™th (R) farewell before his departure to Yemen. Rasulullah (SAW) said, â€œO Muadh, perhaps you shall not meet me again after this year. Perhaps when you return you shall see only my mosque and my grave.â€ Imagine that the person you love most in the world is sending you away for the Path of Allah (SWT), while knowing that He (SAW) may never see you again. I canâ€™t imagine the grief of Muaâ€™th bin Jabil (R) at that time but Alhamdulillah Allah (SWT) gave him the strength to carry out his mission. Sometimes we take Islam for granted but InshAllah next time we will remember our forefathers who sacrificed everything, even the presence of Allah (SWT)â€™s beloved Prophet Muhammad (SAW) so that we would be saved. We were all lost at one point but it is Allah (SWT) who saved us through His Love and Mercy. Alhamdulillah, I was reminded of this Love and Mercy throughout my interaction with this community. Insha Allah I canâ€™t wait to visit my family at Masjid Muaâ€™th bin Jabil and break bread for no other reason but one – fesabhe lillah.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Babar Qadri firstname.lastname@example.org or Mubeen Qureshi at email@example.comJazakallah Khair for your time and we kindly ask that you keep us as well as the communities that we visit in your duas. Next stop, Albanian Islamic Center.
When I was first asked to accompany the MBB brothers on their trip to Masjid Wali Muhammad I was very excited. This excitement however soon turned into a strange uneasiness. This was to be my first outing with MBB and I was worried that I would just go, pray, eat iftaar, and come back without being fully immersed into the MBB experience. As we were driving through Detroit, the signs werenâ€™t too promising. The weather was extremely gloomy and slightly chilly, dilapidated buildings ranked the streets, and this added to my worries of isolation.
Alhamdulillah, all of this instantly changed as we were arriving at Masjid Wali Muhammad. Just blocks away from the Masjid, positive influences of the community were noted by the replacement of abandoned buildings with sprawling urban gardens, freshly painted houses and most comforting was the presence of Muslims walking to the Masjid. Before we even exited the car, the brothers of the Masjid were waiting outside to welcome us. The first person I met was Imam Garret Jihad who was ready and waiting to show us into the Masjid. It was almost Maghrib time and I could still feel the chill but when I entered the Masjid that changed as well. There were brothers lined up on both sides of the hallway extending their greetings as they guided us to the social hall. I met brothers from all age groups and was wholeheartedly being welcomed into a community that I had never been to before.
When we arrived at the social hall, I took time to appreciate the beauty of the Masjid in whole. The warm fluorescent lighting was in sharp contrast to the coldness of the urban setting outside. The whole Masjid was covered in a beautiful and inviting glow from the lights and this amplified the hospitality of the community. The beauty of the social hall isnâ€™t only aesthetic, so it canâ€™t be fully described. The social hall is a bit bigger than half a basketball court and had maybe 7 or 8 tables occupied by smiling faces. I joined a group and all the brothers took turns introducing themselves and took time to learn about us. Dates were being passed around and soon after, the entire Masjid was enveloped by an amazing Athan. We broke our fast and went upstairs to the prayer area. It was only until I went upstairs that I realized not only did the beauty of the Masjid continue to ease my apprehension, but the eloquent voice that made the Athan belonged to a young man who looked no older than 12 or 13. We made our Salaat in a prayer hall that looked like it may have come out of a movie. The prayer hall was not only pulchritudinous, but it had a distinct feel that cannot be described with words. When I think back, it felt like the prayer hall had its own aura but that slipped my mind at the time because I eagerly followed my brothers back down to the social hall.
With the crowd gathering momentum and numbers, we were able to chose from an array of foods to please our empty stomachs. Dishes such as amazing New York style chicken and rice, lamb and rice, baked beans and greens, flatbread pizzas, and desserts that went on for days! I joined a new group of brothers to discuss different aspects of life over these immaculate cuisines. I met one of the youth members and was pleasantly surprised to find that he attended Al-Ikhlas Training Academy since first grade till his graduation as a senior this year. I thought this was significant because despite the lack of extracurricular activities at Al-Ikhlas, this brotherâ€™s parents were committed to giving their son a top-notch Islamic and worldly education.
It was right around then that my Masjid Wali Muhammad experience changed. During dinner I was looking at the various designs on the walls. Most were beautiful ayats of the Quran and the name of Allah (SWT) and the name of His Prophet (SAW), but there was one specific picture that drew my eye. It was a colorful poster of the plan of New Africa laid out on a table in the corner. As I was trying figure out why that seemed so familiar, someone at the table explained it. The Nation of Islam. The name itself exudes a power of its own. While their teachings are viewed as dismissive to the Muslim world at large, there was no controversy that the Masjid that we were sitting in was once the original Temple No. 1, established by Wallace D. Fard in July 1930. To think that we were sitting in a building that helped reshape the history of America. While I was coming to this reality, Imam Jihad went up to give a small speech. He thanked us for coming even though we were indebted to his community, and he said that it is true that this building was once a cornerstone for the Nation. The Imam continued to say that the Masjid and its constituents had followed in the footsteps of W.D. Muhammad and evolved to the truth of Al-Islam. Then the reality kicked in that El Hajj Malik el-Shabazz, more popularly known as Malcolm X, was once in this very building. I feel that many Muslims donâ€™t fully appreciate what Malcolm X and the Nation did for Muslims in America. Though many beliefs of the Nation are of their own innovations, there is no question that their message was clear – Blacks and Muslims would not tolerate oppression in America. People would no longer stand silently as their rights were being violated, rights that the Constitution guaranteed its citizens. The rest as we know is history, and Subhanillah, true Islam was accepted by the descendants of the Nation. Alhamdulillah, our brothers graced us with their company and their hospitality with no limit. We were granted new perspectives and were invited to expand their newly created chess club. I enjoyed this experience but it also reminded me of the many problems Muslims face worldwide, all stemming from lack of unity and the brotherhood that our Prophet (SAW) stressed time and time again.
Abu Huraira reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace be upon him, said, â€œHe who relieves the hardship of a believer in this world, Allah will relieve his hardship on the Day of Judgment. He who makes easy what is difficult, Allah will make it easy for him in the world and the Hereafter. He who conceals the faults of a Muslim, Allah will conceal his faults in the world and the Hereafter. Allah helps the servant so long as he helps his brother. He who travels a path in search of knowledge, Allah will make easy a path to Paradise. A people do not gather together in the houses of Allah, reciting the Book of Allah and studying together, except that tranquility will descend upon them, mercy will cover them, angels will surround them, and Allah will mention them to those with Him. And he who is slow to good deeds will not be hastened by his lineageâ€ [Sahih Muslim, Book 35, Number 6518].
Muslims Building Bridges has a desire to help create awareness for the isolated, opportunity for the enthusiasts, connections for the communities and most importantly, Allahâ€™s barakha upon our intentions and the Muslim Ummah. But we understand that we are at the mercy of Allahâ€™s grace as well as the encouragement and support of this struggling Ummah.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Babar Qadri at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mubeen Qureshi at email@example.com. Jazakallah Khair for your time and we kindly ask that you keep us as well as the communities that we visit in your duas. Next stop, Masjid Muaâ€™th Bin Jabil.
Throughout our experiences with Muslim Building Bridges and other outreach events, we have noticed a plethora of issues that exist in our Ummah. One in particular is our interaction with our fellow Muslims. This can be looked at from two different perspectives. One perspective is that many of us develop negative stereotypes towards specific cultures. Whether they are Muslim or not, we treat individuals according to these stereotypes rather than treating them as individuals. This results in Muslims placing more emphasis on country of origin as opposed to character when choosing the people they associate with. This foolish, and highly unislamic, type of mindset creates not only divisions, but also a false sense of superiority. Making one individual believe that they are better than someone else simply because their ancestors come from a certain city or that their last name carries certain honor from back home perpetuates this disunity. With this type arrogance, how do we expect to ever achieve the unity in our Ummah that we so desperately need?
The other perspective is that there seems to be a growing number of individuals behaving in a disrespectful manner towards one another. The majority of individuals partaking in such a behavior do so mainly because of one thing – their lack of Islamic foundation. Individuals like the ones mentioned above, unfortunately, do not practice Islam on a regular basis. This, in turn develops a sense of guilt, which builds up and may cause the individual to develop a sense of low self-esteem. As a result, when they come to the masjid, they must adopt a persona of a â€œSuper Muslimâ€. This acts as an attempt to show everyone else that they are a practicing and â€œreligiousâ€ individual. With this mindset, they are quick to call out the mistakes of others and do so in a relatively disrespectful manner.
Shaikh once told me that an individual with knowledge is like a tree that bears much fruit. Due to the amount of fruit it carries the branches on the tree cannot bear the weight and as a result the branches bend and remain close to the ground. He further stated that an individual without knowledge is like a tree but with no fruit. It stands tall and branches out for everyone to see. At the end of the day, we must ask ourselves what type would we like to be. Hopefully we all choose the former and not the latter.
One of the main reasons we started Muslim Building Bridges was to help break down the barriers that have built up over time due to our cultural bias superseding our religious responsibilities amongst our varying socioeconomic communities. We urge everyone to do this; itâ€™s not to late. Below are some of the experiences that we recently experienced last Friday while visiting Masjid Al-Falah and Masjid Al-Aqaba.
When we arrived as Masjid Al Falah, we were taken back by the fact that a masjid took into consideration the community around them. After iftaar, the remaining food was distributed to the homes surrounding the masjid. The best part about this was that not all of the households were of Muslim faith. This type of dawah is exactly what we need more of today. Just imagine the benefit that comes from it. Years from now, if these individuals were to be around those who were talking negatively about Muslims they would remember receiving food from the community members of Masjid Al Falah. Maybe they would have enough courage to defend Muslims or, at the very least, tell themselves that these negative things being said about Muslims arenâ€™t true; That when they were in need of food, Muslims were there for them and thus, Islam cannot be a religion of hate, like so many people claim it to be. This is a perfect illustration of the proverb, â€œActions speak louder than wordsâ€.
Some, while reading this, may think the response from this type of dawah, or even the act of this dawah, is insignificant. But I disagree completely. If an individual doesnâ€™t have the courage to defend Muslims publically, at the very least they will tell those who are close to them what communities like Masjid Al Falah did for them. Slowly word would spread and eventually enough people would know about these kind actions. InshaAllah Islamâ€™s reputation will be defended not only by Muslims but by people of other faiths. Small actions like this add up and eventually give the community a foundation to build upon which is a major aid in the fight against Islamophobia.
We left Masjid Al Falah earlier than expected and had some time to spare. Before going home, we decided we would visit our brothers at Masjid Al-Aqaba (the community from our first visit) and of course they welcomed us with open arms. While there, we were witnesses to a sister giving Shahada. Subhanallah! The reason why I am sharing this story is because of what happened afterwards. We were talking to the Imaam of Masjid Al-Aqaba, Imaam Mikaâ€™il, and he was trying to get a hold of the members of the MSA of the university that our new sister was going to attend. This took me aback because so often after someone converts in our local communities, the moment we congratulate them we often leave it at that. Very rarely is there a support system for that individual and, consequently, they are left alone on a journey that they cannot succeed at unless they have individuals there with them for guidance and advice. Many of us enjoy the moment but think someone else will do the rest of the work and we disappear from the scene and ultimately our responsibility as a community falters. This is something that cannot continue. Like the community of Masjid Al-Aqaba, we must help establish a network of support for new Muslims because when those that converted have to face those who are in disagreement with their decision who else would they have to rely on? Muslims now more then ever are in need of each other. Everywhere we turn, we are experiencing either persecution or violence. Whether its Syria, Palestine, Burma, or even China, Muslims are facing challenges that we could not even fathom. Now is not the time to argue over petty community issues like what expansion plan is best for the community or what day Ramadan should start on. Now is the time to swallow whatever pride we may have and form a unified front so that we are able to handle whatever comes our way with precision and humility. At Muslim Building Bridges, we are attempting to do that. No, we are not claiming to solve all of the problems that are facing our Ummah, but we are taking the necessary steps towards solving that very issue. Small actions cannot be overlooked and must be encouraged to continue. Again, we urge everyone to do this. The reward that one feels cannot be put into words, nor can the resolve be quantified. We always must remember that a journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Babar Qadri at firstname.lastname@example.org or Mubeen Qureshi at email@example.com. Jazakallah Khair for your time and we kindly ask that you keep us as well as the communities that we visit in your duas. Next stop, Masjid Wali Muhummad.
As we drove up to Masjid Al-Aqabah, hunger was distracting our thoughts and thirst coveting our conversations, anticipation of such a new experience was only adding to the fatigue of an already exhausting day full of fasting. We had no idea what to expect. This was the first time that anyone of us had ventured out of our comfort zone and visited a community we have never heard of and where we hardly knew anyone. But all that uncertainty changed the moment we parked our cars into that parking lot when an entourage of smiling and excited brothers awaited us at the door with the energy. As we greeted the brothers of Masjid Al Aqhaba, our anxiety and uncertainty was extinguished by the warmth and sincerity that these brothers displayed. It was as if we had been friends since we were kids and we are now just seeing each other after a few years. At that moment we knew this wasnâ€™t just another iftaar with a local community, it was going to be an experience, a memory, and a bond that was going to mean much more than that.
As we were welcomed into the masjid, everyone dispersed into different groups. Some brothers were playing chess, others were talking, and some were spending time with their parents. After spending a few minutes in the prayer hall, a young brother walked up to me and we began to talk. I asked him what his name was and he was hesitant to answer the question. I suspected that he might be nervous so I jokingly asked him, â€œDid you forget your name or something?â€ He laughed and then responded, â€œNo I remember you from Camp Al Hilal!â€ (Camp Al-Hilal is a local community camp that I volunteer for.) Camp Al-Hilal? I was astonished. The last thing on my mind while driving up to this Masjid was that I would run into someone affiliated with the camp let alone a camper. It made me appreciate so much more the fact that when one has the ability to interact with Muslim youth, that interaction must be used to the fullest potential because the impact could be far reaching and long lasting.
Growing up we are often taught about the benefits that comes from barakah. That if there is barakah in something we would experience things from a completely different perspective. Unfortunately, I have never really had an experience to demonstrate exactly what that barakah meant, or what it truly felt like, until that is, we visited Masjid Al Aqhaba last Friday. To illustrate this experience of barakah, our iftar consisted of a single date, half of which we shared with our brothers, but yet we werenâ€™t hungry. Our hunger was suppressed by the taqwa that was illuminating the room. Our thirst was quenched by the love and comerodery we were enjoying. The feeling of content that we experienced that night is something that was unlike ever before. Standing shoulder to shoulder and feet to feet in prayer with no more then 7-8 rows for salaat, we were praying together for the first time but it felt like we have been a community for much longer then that. It was at that moment we truly experienced the benefits that came from sincere barakah. Subhanillah.
fter Salaat, the room was filled with smiling faces and eager stomachs. Being that the resources and amenities we so take for granted (simple things like tables, chairs, plates and eating utensils) were not in abundance, we as guests were uncertain about the arrangement for eating. But, these young brothers pulled out the sheets to lay on the ground for us to all sit around. As they began to serve food, we realized we were running low on the number of plates available. Consequently, some of us had to share from the same plates. Afterwards, when we were reflecting from our experiences, we realized that we didnâ€™t care at all. In fact, we appreciated that we were able to experience something so unique to our normal habits. What I mean is that we didnâ€™t care about whether or not we had the right number of plates, or that we were in a community that until that day never knew existed (which is our fault for not knowing). The most important thing was that night we were truly together as one community and one ummah; where race and socially economic backgrounds didnâ€™t matter. What mattered was that you are my fellow Muslim brother and I am yours. Allahâ€™s blessings come in ways that we could never fathom to even ask of Him.
If you have any questions you can email either Mubeen Qureshi at firstname.lastname@example.org or Babar Qadri at email@example.com. Also, if you are interested in doing something similar to this, we highly recommend that you make the intention to do it this Ramadan. Its not to late and all it takes is a simple phone call. Lastly, I humbly request that you keep the communities that we visit, as well ourselves, in your duas. Next stop, Masjid Al-Falah.