On March 15, 2017, a celebration of community, struggle and homage to founders, some who have passed on to their Lord, took place for the men, women and children who attend services at the Islamic Research and Humanitarian Service Center of America (IRHSCA), a masjid and community center on the Washington DC border in Capitol Heights, Maryland.
A slideshow highlighted the achievements and commitment IRHSCA has made toward its neighborhood and people. Photos of Eid prayers, bazaars, and many youth activities flooded the screen during the “Our Vision, Our Rights & Responsibility” presentation.
The gathering of about one hundred supporters was held at the Diyanet Center in Lanham, Maryland.
Imam Abdul Ali of Rashidun DC, the non profit that provides a mobile food pantry at its Feed the Hood events in Washington DC, was presented with the annual Umm Kheer Humanitarian award by the Executive Director Imam Talib Abdus Samad. Ummil Kheer was a founder of IRHSCA and an inspiration for her service to the community. Also awarded for his service was Luqman Abdus-Saboor for his dedication. He was shot in the leg by a stray bullet last month, while cleaning out the service unit on 37th street where Muslim youth meet for a weekly halaqa.
Sheikh Abdul-Rahman Yaki , the original imam of the center, came to the US from Ghana in 1998 as a graduate student. He served at Prince George’s Muslim Association, help found IRHSCA and now is the imam of the largest masjid in Albany, New York.
“We are very weak and we make mistakes but the best among those who repent.” Quoting the Quran, he said that no one who came to IRHSCA has left unchanged. “We try to give you your deen,” he said. “It is not time for Blacks to wait for Arabia to build for you,” he urged the mostly African American audience.
With a goal to guide the young men and women involved in vices, the shaykh said the center provides counseling for the community. Protect your gaze, recommended Shaykh Yaki. “Strong individuals make strong families, which make strong communities. “If the community is safe, then the country is safe,” he added.
The shaykh shared that the community serve youth and underprivileged and need funds from the broader community to survive. The center, which s location in an economically disadvantaged area, needed to pay back taxes and other urgent financial obligations.
A shahadah took place in at the event. The new Muslim brother was gifted books and a thobe and invited to learn more at the free classes held at IRHSCA, while food catered by Sweet Tooth was served.
Omar Kareem of Banneker Ventures and Ustadha Iesha Prime gave passionate, iman boosting speeches. Ustadha Prime conducted the fundraising and the first donation of $15,000 came within the first minute.
The goal was for $60,000 and the target was achieved with about half that amount collected on the spot.
In a conversation with the Muslim Link, the Chairman of the Shura, Rashidah Abdul-Haqq, addressed the recent lawsuit with the current owner of the property in Capitol Heights. On Friday, before the event, IRHSCA won a court victory, in which the Confession of Judgment by the original owners’ heirs, was dismissed. “They deceived us,” stated Imam Talib. IRHSCA was assessed taxes as the property is located on several small lots. New paperwork has been filed and the centers’ non-profit status is back in order.
Imam Talib, who works full time as a chef at Sweet Tooth, admits that rookie mistakes were made in the past but the hiring of a lawyer and an accountant is helping the center run its operations in a much smoother manner. An IT person is still needed.
“We have big needs,” said Abdul-Haqq. A Senior Nutritional Lunch Program and Social for community members age sixty and older takes place on the third Wednesday of each month. Other programs continuously serve those in need in the community.
Attending since the masjid she attended in Southeast DC burnt down in 2000, Malikah Yousuf says the community is steadily growing. “They do a lot to help people,” said Yousuf.
"The Imam and the center do [so] much for the brothers and sisters...he does counseling, they help with financial problems in addition to the religious stuff...even my children's mother took her shahadah just based on the relationship she saw that I had with the Imam. It feels like a family, nobody's looking down on you on where you come from - we're all just striving and trying to do better than what we've been doing,” shared community member, Abbas.
Speaker Jameel Aalim-Johnson highlighted different forms of power: he started with the Islamic belief that power belongs to Allah, and then explained that no piece of paper, such as the constitution, can guarantee rights. “The will and organization of the people determines those rights,” he advised. Aalim-Johnson referred to the Muslim ban and discussed the court ordered stay on this new version as well. “What is the benefit when you do not implement those rights?” he asked the crowd at the fundraiser.
“I love coming to my home away from home. It is family and helps me become a better person,” shared Khadeejah Everhart, who comes to the center for free Sunday classes for six years, after she took her shahadah at the Benning Road masjid.