Soon after the Islamic Society of Baltimore move into its newly constructed masjid and community center in the 1980s, they started Al-Rahmah School.
Few could have imagined growing from the initial student body of 27 students in 1987 to 350 students today,
On their 25th year anniversary and with the support of around 800 guests who attended the April 27, 2013 fundraising dinner for the school , a new group of visionaries is planning for the next 25 years.
Dr. Zoobia Chaudhry, an Al-Rahmah parent and the chairperson of the school's Board of Education, laid out the vision for the future of Al-Rahmah in eight areas.
The first priority is to further develop the administrative structure of the school. This year long time principal Laura Abdur-Rahman announced her retirement, and after a long search involving 23 applicants Al-Rahmah hired Dr. Fawzia Fazily who holds a doctorate in Education in Executive Leadership. Dr. Zoobia added that department chairs for each school level are part of the leadership plan.
Other future priorities outlined by Dr. Zoobia include investing in dedicated on-site healthcare services for the student body; hiring a trained secondary school counselor; further implementing 'smart classroom' technology; opening up more professional development opportunities to the teaching staff; revamping the Arabic and Islamic studies curriculums; and enhancing campus security.
The highlight of Dr. Zoobia's presentation involved the Board of Education's conceptual drawing for their vision of a new campus. A fly-through video showed dedicated school buildings, athletic fields, and fountains on the ISB property. She closed her presentation by thanking past and present leaders and volunteers who were "key to our present and future success."
After nasheed and Qur'an presentations from Al-Rahmah students, the keynote speaker for the evening, Boston Imam Suhaib Webb, addressed the packed gymnasium.
First photo, keynote speaker Imam Suhaib Webb. "The longevity of your institution is a testament to the greatness of your community," he said. He gave a standing ovation to the Islamic school teachers in attendance. Photos by Salam Aref Shaguj. Second, Al-Rahmah students perform for the full house crowd. Third, the conceptual future plan of the Board of Education for the ISB campus has steady growth in mind. ISB is currently remodeling the former Imam's residence for use as high school classrooms.
"If you remember only one thing this evening, it is this: don't be like an ant" said Imam Suhaib, referring to an arabic anecdote that described the death of an ant who did not have the courage to climb a hill.
Deluged by the bombings in Boston, Imam Suhaib spoke about the effect Muslims should have on society, and how American Muslim culture is tied to the culture of America.
"I challenge Islamic schools to ask 'are you preparing children or incubating them'?" said Imam Webb. "The best of you are those who beneift people." As for the fundraising, Imam Webb was blunt in his speech. Referencing a Jewish community in Boston that recently raised $22 million at a fundraiser, he said until Muslims bring numbers like that to their institutions, "we will be plagued by mediocrity".
Brother Moutasem Atiya conducted the fundraising with some help from Dr. Maqbool Patel. About $171,000 was raised of the $200,000 target.