The small sign hammered to a wooden pole in a field of snow reads Makkah Learning Center. Located in Gambrills, Anne Arundel County, the Islamic Society of Annapolis (ISA) is a small yet active community. After a recent election following a multi-ethnic potluck dinner, a community meeting was held.
After the recitation of Quran by a student of the MLC’s after school program, President Rashid Iqbal introduced the new nine-member executive council of ISA: Nooruddin Bell, a pioneer of the community, Vice President Muhammad Evad Dughley, Tahir Farooq, Sajid Chaudary, Secretary Ibrahim Sheikh, Treasurer Muhammad Babar, Atta ul Haq and Amin Awan.
Several questions from community members were addressed, including the reason for the delay in building the masjid in Annapolis. The council explained that they could not come to terms with a proposed property due to technical difficulties in land laws. They announced that the council has found a permanent location for the Islamic Society of Annapolis and plans to move in by Ramadan.
The property is an apartment building; the top floor of the building will be rented out to provide income for ISA. Removing walls and constructing bathrooms will renovate the lower floor into a practical place of worship.
Phase Two of the MLC is also in the works and the council is in the process of obtaining permits. A 10,000 sq. ft. hall and a 5,000 sq. ft. masjid building are planned.
President Iqbal handed out an annual report with financials and achievements of the center for the year 2013-2014.
Imam Mikaeel Smith gave a presentation on the achievements of the center in education. “First and foremost is worship,” he said, sharing a 500 percent increase in Fajr attendance. “We are working on Dhuhr,” he said. Maghrib and Isha daily attendance rose from four people to 10-15. “This is the maqsad of the masjid,” he stated.
He informed the community of the circles of learning held after Fajr and Isha salahs, where a few hadith are explained for daily learning. “Those who get a daily dose of reminders sometimes say that they needed to hear that hadith to survive the day. Some of us can not make it to the Fajr or Isha salah, so the same set of hadith are repeated,” said Imam Mikaeel. He thanked Shafqat Babar and Saeed, congregates who set up live streaming of the halaqas so those who do not make It to class can still benefit from home. “[There is] no reason to be disconnected from [the masjid],” he said.
MLC holds daily maktab, an after school program where the kids come after school to learn Quran and Islamic Studies. Ustadha Sarah, the wife of Imam Mikaeel, teaches the girls, while Br. Javed and the Imam teach the boys. Adult classes are offered from 7 p.m. to Isha.
MLC offers Saturday adult school called the Foundation Program, which currently serves 30 students from around the region. The classes covered Aqeedah Tahawiyah, Fiqh of Zakat and Fiqh of Taharah this past year. The current course is on the Uloom al Quran. Saturday morning classes are also live streamed.
When Imam Mikaeel joined ISA in 2012, he promised some initiatives in interfaith and intra-community efforts. Since his arrival, with the support of the community, ISA has actively participated in Greater Annapolis Interfaith Network (GAIN) and the Chesapeake Interfaith Environmental Group (CIEG).
A monthly Sunday morning revival-- Fajr with breakfast and readings of Quran-- for the whole family is in the works. A TV screen with daily announcements and advertisements is scheduled to go up in the center. The retractable barrier between the men and the women sections will be replaced by one way glass. An ATM kiosk will replace the sadaqah boxes, so the community can donate using their debit and credit cards. There will be option to specify zakat and sadaqah and make donations geared towards certain projects.
The profit and loss statement was also presented, and the floor was opened for questions.The bathroom renovation exceeded the budgeted amount, and community members questioned this. The council explained that the extra $20,000 paid for the augmented plan to include the expansion of the kitchen for the center. The transparency and accountability was appreciated.
Members of the community enquired about plans for building a high school. Board members explained that county requirements such as a cafeteria and gymnasium make this a big project. “Everything is in line,” said Babar.
The youth are a vibrant part of this community. The Badris, the ISA sister’s youth group teach Quran at Muslimat al Nisa every Thursday. The brothers’ youth group has been involved in volunteer work as well. Youth inquired about getting a seat on the council and were told that the next election will address this issue.
ISA plans to host these community meetings every three months to continue transparency and engagement with its members.