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ADAMS Center Welcomes Imam Siraj Wahhaj, Dr. Jamal Badawi

The All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) Center hosted a fundraiser for the Muslim Alliance in North America (MANA) on August 1st, 2009. Imam Muhammad Majid, vice president of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA) and executive director and imam of ADAMS Center was on site, along with other center staff and members of the board of trustees to welcome the Amir of MANA, Imam Siraj Wahhaj, and fellow keynote speaker Dr. Jamal Badawi. The evening began with a panel presentation on the theme of “Healing and Reconciliation”, which is the focal point of the National Campaign for Healing and Reconciliation (NCHR) presently under development by MANA. The panelists were Sr. Asma Hanif, executive director of the Muslimaat An-Nisaa organization in Baltimore, MD and the current chair of the Coordinating Council of Muslim Organizations (CCMO) of the metropolitan Washington area, Br. Shaker El-Syed, Imam of the Dar Al-Hijrah Islamic Center, and Dr. Altaf Husain, executive committee member of MANA, with oversight responsibility for MANA’s initiative known as Services for Human Advancement and Resource Enhancement (SHARE Centers).

Before the panel presentation, Imam Siraj Wahhaj thanked the ADAMS Center for hosting MANA and for setting aside one date every year for a MANA event to be held at ADAMS. In recognition of such generosity by the ADAMS board of trustees, staff and community members, Imam Siraj presented Imam Muhammad Majid with a plaque of appreciation on behalf of the Majlis Ash-Shura of MANA. In accepting the plaque, Imam Majid reiterated his support of MANA and noted that it was an honor for the ADAMS Center community to be hosting such events for MANA.

Dr. Husain initiated the panel presentation by outlining the progress to date on the NCHR, highlighting most notably the outcome of an all-day meeting of the campaign task force comprising national and regional representation held on June 27th, 2009 and hosted by the Islamic Center of Long Island. The Task Force consists of 18 members who represent the broad spectrum of the American Muslim community, including the major national organizations such as Mosque Cares, ISNA, CAIR, ICNA, etc, as well as two of the major city-wide Shura councils (Chicago and Southern California) and various Muslim leaders. Sr. Asma addressed her own powerful transformation from her past experiences of marginalization in her interactions with various Muslim sisters to reaching a point of forgiveness and reconciliation which allows her to collaborate and cooperate with Muslims of diverse backgrounds in the process of providing shelter and social services for Muslim women who are victims of domestic abuse and violence. Imam Shaker El-Syed reminded attendees of the Qur’anic injunction to strive to achieve healing and reconciliation but he also urged caution that we should not begin with the assumption that wounds exist and that there is a need for either healing or reconciliation.

The keynote lectures given by Dr. Jamal and Imam Siraj moved the audience to smiles and tears as both renowned speakers addressed the reality of being a Muslim in a continent-wide community filled with members whose diversity is characterized by differences in their historical, racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and theological backgrounds. Dr. Jamal was in true form, presenting the roots of potential divisions in a community, along with the Divine and Prophetic injunctions to strive for healing and reconciliation.

He emphasized the importance of self-purification and the attainment of proper knowledge among other key pillars of a viable and comprehensive strategy to both prevent further divisions and wounds and to achieve healing and reconciliation. The Islamic imperative to strive for unity is rooted, he continued, in verse 46 of Sura Al-Anfal (8), “and obey Allah and His Messenger. and fall into no disputes, lest ye lose heart and your power depart; and be patient and persevering: For Allah is with those who patiently persevere”. Dr. Jamal emphasized the importance of having a unified vision, noting that our varied experiences lead us to emphasize different priorities but we need to have a unified vision. He concluded his lecture by calling upon the attendees and especially MANA to translate the campaign into real achievable goals by brainstorming about a plan and goals and objectives, and to identify human and financial resources to achieve the plan.

Imam Siraj began his keynote lecture by thanking Allah and the Muslim community in North America for the support it extended to him and his family during this past year when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and hypertension. The audience broke out into applause and cheering upon hearing Imam Siraj explain that he has just recently been given an all clear signal from his doctors and that the cancer treatment was successful by the grace and mercy of Allah. After emphasizing the importance of the MANA NCHR, Imam Siraj spoke of a very personal and yet public part of his life which exemplified beautifully the dual themes of healing and reconciliation. He declared emphatically that he in fact was an Imam under the leadership of the late Imam Warith ud Deen Muhammad, especially after the late Imam transformed his father’s Nation of Islam into a mainstream sunni Muslim community. So powerful was the intervention of Imam W.D. Muhammad in the life of Imam Siraj and his journey into mainstream Islam that Imam Siraj indicated to the audience that anything good he has done since that time and will insha’Allah do in his life will be as a form of credit in the good deeds of Imam W.D. Muhammad. He “turned my heart towards the Qur’an,” Imam Siraj noted, reflecting on a warm memory of how Imam W.D. Muhammad had organized an intensive learning camp in Naperville, Illinois with notables like Dr. Jaafar Shaikh Idris and Shaikh Muhammad Nur Abdullah. It was in that camp that Imam Siraj heard the recitation of the Qur’an and noted aloud that “it was the most beautiful thing I had ever heard in my life.” The challenge came as Imam Siraj continued his journey to acquire knowledge, traveling to Makkah, and studying back in the U.S. He noted inconsistencies in what he was discovering about Islam on his own and what was being taught by Imam W.D. Muhammad and his followers. Rather than creating a division in the community or even turning followers against Imam W.D., Imam Siraj went to him and admitted to not teaching publicly Imam W.D.’s understanding of Islam and the Qur’an and sunnah. Imam

W.D. thanked Imam Siraj for the unselfish approach he had taken and granted him permission to leave the community. After being on his own, Imam Siraj told the audience, he made one speech during which he said some unkind things about Imam W.D. Muhammad which he immediately regretted and never repeated again. He indicated how over time he apologized to Imam W.D. and in fact would call him on the phone directly for advice and counsel, unbeknown to the followers of either of the Imams. Several years before Imam W.D. passed away, the two Imams reconciled both in private and in public. Imam Siraj recalled how during a conference of the southeast region of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA), Imam W.D. was recognized for his accomplishments and before his arrival Imam Siraj extolled his virtues and contributions. When Imam W.D. arrived on stage at the conference and was informed about how Imam Siraj had praised him, Imam W.D. said publicly, “Imam Siraj Wahhaj has grown over the years and so have I.” Standing there during the janaza prayer for Imam W.D. in Chicago, Imam Siraj reflected to himself that although he had a community of his own, he in effect became a bridge to help people appreciate the work of Imam W.D. In closing, Imam Siraj remarked to the audience that being diagnosed with and treated for cancer taught him sensitivity, and reaffirmed his belief that there are in the Muslim community all types of people with needs, with wounds both psychological and physical, and that they deserve to be treated with mutual love and respect.

At the conclusion of Imam Siraj’s moving keynote lecture, Imam Qasim Khan, Director of Events and Fundraising for MANA, took to the stage to conduct the fundraising. He reminded the audience of not waiting until Ramadan to give their donations and that MANA was very much in need of their spiritual and financial support. The evening concluded after maghrib prayer when the attendees were treated to a delicious dinner.


Dr. Altaf Husain, a member of the Executive Committee of MANA, contributed this report on the event.

When My servants ask thee concerning Me, I am indeed close (to them): I listen to the prayer of every suppliant when he calleth on Me: Let them also, with a will, Listen to My call, and believe in Me: That they may walk in the right way.

Quran: 2:186
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