|Annapolis Muslims Welcome A New Member: Their Imam|
|Community News - Community News|
|Written by By Hena Zuberi, Muslim Link Staff Reporter|
|Tuesday, 25 September 2012 11:12|
The Muslim community in Anne Arundel County, Maryland began renting an office space in downtown Annapolis in 1996 for juma’ prayers catering primarily to Muslims who worked in the area. In 2006, a 6000 sq ft modular masjid opened in Gambrills on a 20-acre property and became the Makkah Learning Center.
Earlier this year, the community announced plans to purchase a house in Annapolis for use as a permanent masjid in the state capitol, making it the second facility for the Islamic Society of Annapolis. Now the community has some more welcome news.
A new Imam has been hired for the Islamic Society of Annapolis.
He was a young kid growing up in Buffalo, New York who loved Jesus and had deep faith, deep Baptist faith. A ‘latch key’ kid whose single mom worked hard to raise his elder sister and him, he grew up in a deeply spiritual home.
Until he started high school at a Catholic private school, and then it didn’t make sense anymore, nothing made sense, his faith, his belief in what it meant to be Christian, the Bible. So he gave it up and filled his life with stuff that teenage boys indulge in: games, sports, and girls.
It was the year after graduation, 2002, at the age of 18, during a yearlong hiatus from college he started working and a co-worker gave him the Qur’an and he started reading it. And it made sense.
Mass media was instrumental in encouraging his study of Islam. "We were constantly bombarded with images of Islam. As a minority, I didn’t trust the media and wanted to differentiate between propaganda and reality. What is this religion? The desire to connect with God was tugging at me." He started calling himself a Muslim.
Within a year after his 'official' shahadah, Mikaeel found himself enrolled at the Dar ul Uloom Madaniyyah in Buffalo, NY. There he learned to read the Mushaf and memorized the Qur’an in 3 ½ years.
“This was a supreme blessing from Allah, as many converts do not get this training. We are like new-born babies and need similar attention," said Imam Mikaeel in an interview with the Muslim Link. “ I was lucky to receive the education and perform Hajj within a few years of taking shahadah.”
“Education is vital to our iman, it is vital for your Islam.” Imam Mikaeel became fluent in the Urdu language to complete the ‘Alim course and then proceeded to study in Damascus, Syria at Jammayah Abu Nur’s Arabic Immersion Course in 2008.
Mikaeel Ahmad is a hifdh and has served as the Ramadan imam at the Islamic Society of Greater Augusta in Georgia for several years. He completed his studies of the Sahih Sitta and Tafseer of the Qur’an from the Academy of Sacred Knowledge, in Chatham, Ontario, Canada.
Now Mikaeel is Imam Mikaeel Ahmed Smith, the new Imam at the Islamic Society of Annapolis’s Makkah Learning Center.
He is a newly wed; his nikkah was performed right before Ramadan. His wife, Sarah, is the daughter of Imam Adil Khan, the former Imam of Muslim Community Center. She is also holds the ‘Alimah degree and will be assisting him in teaching the congregation.
The Imam is passionate about reading and plans to open a book club in the center. Two books he recommends that every Muslim adult should read are the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey and Enjoy your Life by Dr. Arifi published by Dar us Salaam. One he recommends for our ever social media connected youth is Alone Together by Sherry Turkle.
TML: Who has influenced your leadership style?
The Rasul of Allah, salla hu alayhi wassalam, first and foremost, the things that he overcame and the hard, hard circumstances he faced. After him, my greatest influence has been Malcolm X. It was upon reading his autobiography that I came to understand Islam and differentiate it from the Nation of Islam. How he came from darkness to the light and his self-motivation to study. He taught me that with the help of Allah, you can go anywhere.
Anyone who stands for justice and truth, those are the people who I want to model my life after.
TML: What is the greatest need of the community?
In general, I see this generally in American Muslims, there is a gap between the scholars and the youth; this gap needs to be filled. They need someone that they can confide in.
Someone who can evoke a sense of outward pride and inner humility, encourage their sense of learning. The greatest need is the lack of education, knowledge about Islam and specifically the difference between religion and culture. Don’t get me wrong we have beautiful aspects in our cultures.
To meet this need we intend to teach several classes at the Makkah Learning Center. The Foundations course is our course aimed at college students, juniors/seniors in high school as well as adults to learn the essentials of the Islam, mainly Aqaaid, Fiqh and spirituality. Another class that will be taught is the Adab al Mufrad by Imam Bukhari (RA), every Friday after Maghrib.
As we settle in, we would like to start interfaith dialogue, I had a great chance to been involved in interfaith between the scholars and bishops in Syria.
TML: What is the role of the masjid?
Across the country, the masjid is playing various roles. However, I feel that the maktab system is great, where the children come after school to the masjid and just spend time there. They do their homework there, read Qur'an.
The masjid should be an integral part of every child’s daily life. Here we explain to them that Allah [causes] the effect and it happens. This is opposite of what they are taught in schools. Children are taught day in and day out that everything happens by itself; that the water becomes ice by itself, without a Creator. After years of hearing this, when they become teenagers, doubts start creeping into their minds about Islam.
How many of us just spend time at the masjid? When do we say 'I have some free time, let me go to the masjid?' We don’t have a connection with the masjid; we have forgotten the purpose, dhikr Allah. A mu’min feels at home in the masjid, like a fish in water, it’s their natural habitat. We need to instill this in ourselves, the desire to be in the masjid away from dunya instead of impatiently waiting for salah to be over to rush to the dunya.
TML: How do you view the Board of Directors and Imam’s relationship?
I can only speak of my personal experience. This community has been so welcoming. I have yet to fulfill the favors that they have done for my wife and me. It reminds me of the Muhajirun and their arrival in Madinah and how the Ansaar welcomed them into their new homes. The Board of Directors had arranged a welcome wedding reception for us. It has been simply amazing and I just hope that I can return the favor to the best of my abilities.