The Ramadan moon shone bright above the navy and white striped tents on lawns of the Muslim Community Center as worshippers filled up the main masjid and spilled over in the tents.
The Muslim Community Center’s fundraising dinner held on July 20th, 2013 was packed, all 300 seats were filled and the $244,000 were raised. No frills, no fuss, a simple iftar and dinner defined the annual Ramadan fundraiser, this year aimed at paying for a major extension to the masjid, expanded wudu facilities, and additional classrooms.
The game plan used was to divide the funding of the extension into 135 prayers spots for sisters. Each of these prayer spot were offered for sponsorship for $2,000. Similarly, each of the four large glass doors were up for grabs for $3,500 apiece. “Just think that every time somebody opens the door and steps inside the Masjid, In sha Allah your blessings will start and keep going! The return on investment never stops,” read an email sent out to the community.
Sh. Mohamed Abdullahi, the Imam of MCC, hosted the event. The fundraising started at 8:00pm and before iftar a large percentage of the target of $300,000 was achieved. Many donors sponsored prayer spaces on behalf of their parents.
Without begging or guilt-tripping the community, the imam reminded them of the benefits of donating, especially in Ramadan, and thanked past major donors and their families. Even though there were not many young professionals amongst the guests, fundraising committee head Akhtar Zubairi said he was pleasantly surprised by their participation; many had reached out to him and the imam privately and sponsored prayer spaces.
Zubairi said the doors went quickly, in two days. Some sisters pooled money and sponsored a door, while other donors dropped the whole amount. The largest donation collected that night was $25,000.
Construction hit a snag when the foundation was not laid out correctly, but Zubairi says the issue was caught in time and the foundation has been relaid.
The growing community needs space that is evident from the number of worshipers who pray under the moonlight. This year both men and women retained their spaces in the main prayer hall so the overflow was of both genders.
The project is expected to take six months to complete. During construction the masjid has remained open for prayers. The steel stage of construction has not been started as it would impede the worshipers during Ramadan, says Zubairi.
There have been some complaints that the sisters’ prayer area is being used as a gimmick to raise funds, and that equal space could be created by removing the barrier in the main hall, without spending a dime.
Another concern brought up by some worshippers was how the new facility will connect with the main prayer space. They want to know how the women will ensure they are following the salat correctly, and if the women be able to see the imam.
Zubairi says that state of the art audio/visual equipment will be used to facilitate the sisters following the imam but it remains to be seen if the new building will enhance the masjid experience for women or marginalize them. The fact that two of the three recently elected directors on the board are women, Shabana Siddiqui and Lubna Ejaz, reassures many women in the community that their needs will be met.
Sr. Suad, who has been attending MCC for twenty years, said she was really excited about the new space. “We need one place for the women, alone,” she said. A couple from the Indonesian Community Center also attended to show solidarity with the MCC community.
Dr. Mohammad Chowdhury, a very active member of the community since 1987 was also attending the fundraiser. He was part of the Al Huda School when it first started as well as the principal of the MCC Sunday School. “I started coming here when there were 20 people for Friday prayers, and now we have over 2000 attending; I wish them continued success,” he said.
Zubairi says that the weekend school has been turning away students as they do not have the space to accommodate them. The additional six classrooms will expand the school’s capacity by 70 students.
Zubairi encouraged the community to get involved and feel confident that the money was being used wisely. “If someone wants to see MCC’s books, we are very open and we encourage the participation from the younger generation,” he said. “We have told every chairperson that new people need to be added to each committee. We want to get more younger people on the board; we realize we are getting old and that someone has to take over; we want to train them and give them experience,” he said.
To learn more or donate, visit mccmd.org.