A New Initiative

In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

The death of Imam W.D. Muhammed was truly a tragic event for the American Muslim community. His loss will be felt for a very long time. As some time has passed since his death, I realize that – had we listened to him more, had we benefited from his wisdom more, had we turned to his leadership more – we would be in a much better place in society today.

It was a stroke of pure genius to direct that his funeral prayer be conducted at the Islamic Foundation mosque in Villa Park, IL. For those not familiar with the Chicago-area Muslim community, the Islamic Foundation is one of the largest immigrant Muslim mosques in the Chicago area, if not the largest. By insisting that he be prayed upon there, he brought the immigrant and indigenous Muslim communities together, if only for a brief moment, as if to highlight the need for better community cohesion as we move forward in this century.

And the response from the community was overwhelming. For once, we felt like one community, one people, one religious brotherhood and sisterhood, all standing together saying goodbye to one of our heroes who was called back to God. And the reflections about Imam W.D. Muhammed’s legacy came one after the other, including mine. Perhaps the most emotional response was that of Azhar Usman, which really moved me to the core of my being.

Yet, where do we go from here? Is this it? Are we going to go back to the way things were, as the days and months pass since our dear Imam has passed? Will we slip back into the old ways of doing things? Are we going to do anything?

It is simply unbelievable that it can be the case that – in cities all across this country – inner city mosques crumble to the ground while multi-million dollar suburban mosques get built and rebuilt and expanded. How can this be? Don’t we realize that we will be asked by God about this? Like I said before, we are a better community than this.

But, what are we going to do about it? We can all agree on principle, but when it comes to action, everything falls apart. I must admit, I myself can do very little. But, I feel I must do something. In speaking with the Executive Director of the Council of Islamic Organizations of Greater Chicago (CIOGC) – and dear friend – Junaid Afeef, he gave me an excellent idea.

In order to begin to truly cement the ties between our communities – that of the immigrant and indigenous Muslims – we should begin to get to know one another. There is so much more work that needs to be done, but at least we need to learn about each other. And in this I can make a humble contribution.

Thus, insha’Allah (God willing), I am beginning a series of profiles of the various Muslim communities in the Chicago area, and my focus will be on the indigenous Muslims. In the Chicago area, we all know the immigrant communities. But, do we know the various indigenous communities? Do we know what they are up to? Do we know the challenges they face? Do we know what activities they do?

This is not intended to be a series of posts trying to garner sympathy for those “poor inner city Muslims,” which is an ugly stereotype, by the way. No. They will be positive profiles about the Muslims in the Chicago area. With God’s help, I can profile other communities across the country, but I want to start locally. I pray I am successful in this endeavor.

And I pray that, once we get to know one another, we can truly build intrafaith bridges, which are, by the way, as important as those we build outside our faith. And I pray that, our words of apology and vows to make things better actually lead to action. Amen.


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